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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

76ers Beat Pistons 97-68, Ending 5-Game Skid

76ers Beat Pistons 97-68, Ending 5-Game Skid

(credit: Dan Lippitt/NBAE via Getty Images)

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Thaddeus Young scored 12 of his 20 points in a pivotal second quarter and All-Star Andre Iguodala had 12 points, six assists and four steals to help the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Detroit Pistons 97-68 and snap a five-game losing streak.

Philadelphia coach Doug Collins left the bench between the third and fourth quarters, walking to the team’s locker room, and didn’t return to the court because of flulike symptoms.

The Atlantic Division-leading Sixers have been at their best against the lowly Pistons, beating them twice at home by an average of 22 points and routing them Tuesday night in the first game for both teams after the All-Star break.

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

Singer Davy Jones of The Monkees dies in Fla at 66

Singer Davy Jones of The Monkees dies in Fla at 66

AP Photo
FILE - This 1966 photo shows The Monkees, singing group. Shown from left, are, Davy Jones, Peter Tork, Micky Dolenz and Mike Nesmith. Jones died Wednesday Feb. 29, 2012 in Florida. He was 66. Jones rose to fame in 1965 when he joined The Monkees, a British popular rock group formed for a television show. Jones sang lead vocals on songs like "I Wanna Be Free" and "Daydream Believer."

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Davy Jones, the heartthrob singer who helped propel the made-for-TV rock band The Monkees to the top of the pop charts as an American version of the Beatles, died Wednesday. He was 66.

His publicist, Helen Kensick, confirmed Jones died of a heart attack in Indiantown, where he had lived. Jones complained of breathing troubles early in the morning and was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead, said Rhonda Irons of the Martin County Sheriff's Office. The sheriff's spokeswoman said there were no suspicious circumstances.

Born in Manchester, England, Jones had stylishly long hair, boyish good looks and a British accent that endeared him to legions of screaming young fans after "The Monkees" premiered on CBS in 1966.

Aspirations of Beatles-like fame were never fully achieved, however, as the TV show lasted just two years. But The Monkees made rock `n roll history as the band galvanized a wide American following with love-struck hits such as "Daydream Believer" and "I'm a Believer" that endure even today.

Jones was born on Dec. 30, 1945, and became a child star in his native England who appeared on television and stage, including a heralded role as "The Artful Dodger" in the play "Oliver."

He earned a Tony nomination at 16 when he reprised that role in the show's Broadway production, a success that brought him to the attention of Columbia Pictures/Screen Gems Television, which created The Monkees.

The show, clearly patterned on the Beatle's film "A Hard Days Night," chronicled the comic trials and tribulations of a rock group whose four members lived together and traveled to gigs in a tricked-out car called the Monkeemobile. Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz starred with him. Each part was loosely patterned after one of the Beatles, with Jones in the Paul McCartney role for The Monkees.

The first single, "Last Train to Clarksville," became a No. 1 hit. And the show caught on with audiences, featuring fast-paced, helter-skelter comedy inspired as much by the Marx Brothers as the Beatles.

It was a shrewd case of cross-platform promotion. As David Bianculli noted in his "Dictionary of Teleliteracy," "The show's self-contained music videos, clear forerunners of MTV, propelled the group's first seven singles to enviable positions of the pop charts: three number ones, two number twos, two number threes."

At 5-feet-3, Jones was by far the shortest member of the group - a fact often made light of on the show. But with his youthful good looks, he was also the group's heartthrob. And with the pronounced accent that he never lost, Jones was in some ways the Monkees' direct connection to Beatlemania, which was still sweeping the United States when the television show "The Monkees" debuted.

Yet after the show's launch, The Monkees came under fire from music critics when it was learned that session musicians - and not the group's members - had played the musical instruments on their recordings. They were derided as the "Prefab Four," an insulting comparison to the Beatles' nickname, the "Fab Four."

In reality, Jones could play the drums and guitar, and although Dolenz learned to play the drums after he joined the group, he could also play guitar, as could Nesmith.

Nesmith also wrote several of The Monkees' songs, as well as songs for others. Tork, who played bass and keyboards on the TV show was a multi-instrumentalist.

The group eventually prevailed over the show's producers, including music director Don Kirchner, and began to play their own instrumentals. Regardless, the group was supported by enviable talent.

Carole King and Gerry Goffin wrote "Pleasant Valley Sunday," and Neil Diamond penned "I'm a Believer." Musicians who played on their records included Billy Preston, who later played with the Beatles, Glen Campbell, Leon Russell, Ry Cooder and Neil Young.

The group also released the 1968 film "Head," derided at the time as a psychedelic mishmash notable only for an appearance by Jack Nicholson. It has since come to be considered a cult classic by Monkees fans.

After two seasons, the TV series had flared out and was cancelled after 58 episodes in the summer of 1968. But The Monkees remained a nostalgia act for decades.

After the TV show ended, Jones continued to tour with the other Monkees for a time, sometimes playing the drums at concerts when Dolenz came up front to sing.

Many also remember Jones from a widely seen episode of "The Brady Bunch" that aired in 1971, in which he makes an appearance at Marcia Brady's school dance. In the episode, Marcia Brady, president of her school's Davy Jones Fan Club, promised she could get him to appear before her classmates.

The group eventually broke up over creative differences, although it did reunite from time to time for brief tours over the years, usually without Nesmith.

In 1987, Jones, Tork, and Dolenz recorded a new album, "Pool It." And two years later, the group received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

All four, however, came together for a 1996 album, "Justus," and a subsequent TV movie "Hey, Hey, It's The Monkees!" that saw them still living in the same house and still traveling in the Monkeemobile - just like old times.

Jones, who is survived by his wife Jessica, continued to make appearances on television and stage later. But it was the fame of The Monkees that pulled him back to that era time and time again. On his website, he recalled during auditions for the show when all four men finally were put together in a scene.

"That's it," he recalled everyone around him saying: "Magic."

Ohio shooting suspect may have used relative's gun

Ohio shooting suspect may have used relative's gun

AP Photo
T.J. Lane, a suspect in Monday's shooting of five students at Chardon High School is taken into juvenile court by Geauga County deputies in Chardon, Ohio Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. Three of the five students wounded in the attacks have since died.

CHARDON, Ohio (AP) -- The teenager suspected in an Ohio school shooting that killed three students may have used a gun that disappeared from his grandfather's barn, a longtime neighbor said Wednesday.

The gun was noticed as missing after Monday's shootings and fits the description of the pistol that reportedly was used to kill three students and wound two others at Chardon High School, said Carl Hendersen, a neighbor of the suspect's grandparents.

He is a retired police officer and former Geauga County sheriff, as well as a longtime neighbor of the grandparents of suspect T.J. Lane. He said he has spoken to the grandfather, Thomas Lane, about the gun.

The suspect's grandfather believes the gun is the same, "because the gun was there the day before, in the barn," said Henderson, 74, who says he's been friends with the boy's family for nearly 50 years.

A law enforcement official familiar with the investigation said the gun used in the shooting, a Ruger .22-caliber Mark III target pistol, was bought legally in August 2010 from a gun shop in Mentor, Ohio.

The official, who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation, said Lane told authorities he stole gun from his uncle. It wasn't clear Wednesday whether the gun might have been the same one missing from the grandfather's barn.

The grandparents feel terrible about what happened and have no explanation for the teen's alleged role in the shootings, Henderson said.

Lane came from a broken family but seemed to heal over time, said Henderson, who added that the boy began living with his grandparents off and on several years ago.

"T.J. was a very fine person," Henderson said. "Nice-looking man, very friendly, spoke to you, carried a conversation with you."

Another neighbor on Wednesday described T.J. Lane as a normal boy who excelled in school and played outside often with his sister, building snow hills and skateboarding.

Steve Sawczak said he never would have allowed his own grandchildren to play nearby if he thought anything was wrong with the teenager. Sawczak lives next door to Lane's other grandfather, Jack Nolan, who has familial custody of the suspect and attended his court hearing Tuesday.

"We're all absolutely stunned," Sawczak said. "He's an average kind of kid."

Sawczak, 58, a pastor who has worked with troubled children, said he never saw hints of what was coming. A next-door neighbor of Lane's grandparents for almost 25 years, he said the couple, who have custody of the teen, gave Lane a healthy place to live. They often took them to school events.

"They are in shock," Sawczak said. "They are absolutely devastated."

At Chardon High, the faculty parking lot was jammed Wednesday as teachers returned to the school for the first time since Monday's shooting, with grief counselors on hand if needed. Parents and students are encouraged to return to the school Thursday, and classes resume Friday.

Students planned to march together to the school Thursday from the main square about three-quarters of a mile away.

Hundreds of residents turned out for a vigil Tuesday evening at St. Mary Catholic Church to pray and hear Scripture readings, while overhead banners from a rival high school contained signatures from other students showing their support.

Lane, 17, admitted taking a pistol and a knife to the 1,100-student Chardon High and firing 10 shots at a group of students sitting at a cafeteria table, prosecutor David Joyce said.

A police report said 33 officers from around the area responded to what was first described as a "shooting accidental." Emergency crews from four fire departments also responded.

Lane, a thin young man described by other students as extremely quiet, appeared briefly in juvenile court Tuesday. He spoke little, and a judge ordered him held for at least 15 days.

Prosecutors have until Thursday to bring charges and are expected to ask that Lane be tried as an adult. He will probably be charged with three counts of aggravated murder and other offenses, Joyce said.

Joyce described suspect Lane as "someone who's not well" and said the teen didn't know the victims but chose them randomly.

Killed were Demetrius Hewlin, 16, Russell King Jr., 17, and Daniel Parmertor, 16.

An 18-year-old girl who was hurt in the shootings was released from the hospital Tuesday and was home with family. The girl's family declined to comment Wednesday. The second injured teen remained in serious condition at a suburban Cleveland hospital.

Both sides in the legal case are under a gag order imposed by the judge at the prosecutor's request. The judge also barred media outlets from taking photos of the faces of the suspect and some of his relatives.

The AP transmitted photos and video of Lane that were shot before the hearing. The AP and at least one other media outlet, The Plain Dealer of Cleveland, plan to challenge the judge's order Wednesday.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

West Wins NBA All-Star Game Despite Kobe Bryant’s Broken Nose

West Wins NBA All-Star Game Despite Kobe Bryant’s Broken Nose


ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Kobe Bryant got the scoring record, Kevin Durant the MVP, and the West got the win — barely.

Even after that duo piled up the points, the NBA All-Star game came down to a defensive play.

A bloodied Bryant scored 27 points, moving past Michael Jordan as the career scoring leader in the game, Durant had 36 in an MVP performance, and Blake Griffin’s interception of LeBron James’ pass secured the Western Conference’s 152-149 win over the East on Sunday night.

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


Sixers Look To Start Second Half With A Win In Detroit

Sixers Look To Start Second Half With A Win In Detroit

(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Sixers were able to get off to a hot start this year by consistently beating sub .500 teams. In fact, they’ve only lost two games to such teams all season. After five straight losses heading into the All-Star break, a game against the Pistons (11-24) is exactly what they need.

The Sixers (20-14) offense has sputtered in recent weeks. They haven’t scored 100 points since January 23rd, and have averaged just 83 points per game during their losing streak. They’re going to have to try to figure it out without Spencer Hawes for the time being. Hawes, who saw a specialist about his injured Achilles over the weekend, will not play in a game for at least two more weeks. He was able to remove the protective boot he’s been wearing.

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

DA: Jenkintown School Official Had Sex With Underage Student

DA: Jenkintown School Official Had Sex With Underage Student

JENKINTOWN, Pa. (CBS) – Police arrested and charged the athletic director for the Jenkintown School District on allegations he had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a teenage girl in 2010.

Mark Citron is facing several charges after authorities allege he had six-month sexual relationship with a then 17-year-old Jenkintown High School student from January to June of 2010.

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

Nutter’s Next City Budget To Have No Tax Increases

Nutter’s Next City Budget To Have No Tax Increases

(Mayor Nutter, in file photo.  Credit: Bobby Bank/ Getty Images)

Mayor Nutter

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — No new taxes: that’s the pledge, for now, from the Nutter administration.

Mayor Nutter delivers his new budget to City Council a week from Thursday, and the spending plan is still being kept under wraps.

But Nutter’s spokesman, Mark McDonald, is willing to reveal one key component — there will be no requests for increases in the property, business, or wage taxes.

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

Americans feeling better about economic recovery

Americans feeling better about economic recovery

AP Photo
In this Feb. 21, 2012 photo, a customer exits Lowe's, in New York. A private research group says that consumer confidence in February rose to the highest level since a year ago when the U.S. economy’s outlook started to look brighter before souring again.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Americans are feeling better about the economy again, but will it last this time?

A widely watched barometer of consumer confidence surged in February to its highest level in a year as Americans took note of improving job prospects among friends and family and falling unemployment, which is now at a three-year low.

The brighter assessment released Tuesday by a private research group reflected a more upbeat attitude for the nation generally as the economy picks up. That is a boon for President Obama as he seeks re-election. Polls, including a recent Associated Press-GfK survey, show the Democratic incumbent is beginning to benefit politically from improved views of the economy.

"The economy is getting momentum. Clearly, shoppers are more optimistic about their job prospects," said Amna Asaf, economist at Capital Economics.

The rising confidence among consumers gave confidence to Wall Street, too, helping it to reclaim the last of the ground it held before plunging into the depths of the Great Recession. The Dow Jones industrial average closed above 13,000 on Tuesday for the first time since May 19, 2008, four months before the fall of Lehman Brothers investment bank and the worst of the financial crisis.

Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Harris Private Bank, called it "a momentous day for investor confidence."

Tuesday's gain puts the Dow 1,160 points below its all-time high, set Oct. 9, 2007. The Great Recession began two months later.

The milestone could draw some fence-sitting investors back into the market and add to the gains, said Brian Gendreau, market strategist at Cetera Financial Group.

But consumer confidence is still below the level of a healthy economy, and trouble could lie ahead. Rising gas prices could sully shoppers' mood and derail the economic recovery. There are also fears about a nuclear showdown with Iran and the festering European debt crisis. Those worries could hurt demand for U.S. imports and make American companies pull back in hiring.

The confidence index is closely watched because consumer spending constitutes 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.

The big question mark is the price of gasoline, which Asaf said has climbed 20 cents per gallon since the confidence survey concluded two weeks ago.

The price of gas is a big issue because it has an immediate effect on shoppers' pocketbooks, particularly low- to middle-income households that are already squeezed by higher costs for basics such as food.

The average U.S. price of a gallon of gasoline was $3.69, according to the Lundberg Survey of fuel prices released Sunday.

The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index now stands at 70.8, significantly higher than the expected 63. A reading of 90 or above indicates a healthy economy. But the index has not reached that level since December 2007, when the recession began.

Still, Tuesday's numbers were closer to levels that indicate a stable economy than to the danger zone that would suggest trouble.

A year ago, the index rose to 72 as the economic outlook was improving. The February 2011 reading was the highest since before the financial crisis in the fall of 2008. After that, the outlook soured again over the spring and summer.

Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research, hopes the upward trend will have staying power this time.

"Consumers are really feeling like the worst is behind them," she said. "We are finally seeing some traction, and hopefully over the next few months, that will prove sustainable."

The index dropped to an all-time low of 25.3 in February 2009. Over the past 12 months, it has been going back and forth from the high 60s to the low 40s on continued worries about the economy.

In fact, confidence fell last October to 40.9, the lowest since March 2009, during the thick of the recession.

The Conference Board survey of consumers, conducted from Feb. 1 through Feb. 15, showed shoppers are feeling better about the job market.

Those anticipating more jobs in the months ahead increased to 18.7 percent from 16.4 percent, while those anticipating fewer jobs declined to 16.9 percent from 19.1 percent.

Shoppers have good reason to feel a little better. The government reported that 243,000 jobs were added in January, pushing down the unemployment rate to 8.3 percent, the lowest in three years. Unemployment has fallen five months in a row for the first time since 1994.

Meanwhile, the four-week average of people seeking unemployment aid fell to the lowest point in four years.

Even the housing market, though still weak, is showing signs of recovery. Home values remain depressed, according to the latest snapshot from a widely followed Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home price index. But more people signed contracts to buy homes in January than in nearly two years, according to seasonally adjusted figures from the National Association of Realtors.

In a separate report, the Commerce Department said U.S. businesses slashed spending on machinery and equipment in January after a tax break expired. That pushed orders for long-lasting manufacturing goods down 4 percent, the biggest monthly decline in three years.

But economists suggested the drop was largely because most companies made big purchases at the end of last year to qualify for the tax credit, which expired at the end of December. They noted that demand for so-called core capital goods, a good measure of business investment plans, fell sharply in January after surging in December to an all-time high.

Durable goods are products such as appliances and cars expected to last at least three years. Orders tend to fluctuate sharply from one month to the next. But the overall trend in orders has increased steadily since the recession ended nearly three years ago.

"We see no evidence of underlying slowing in the industrial economy," said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at High Frequency Economics. "So we look for a rebound in February and the re-emergence of the upward trend over the next couple of months."

Monday, February 27, 2012

Detroit automakers race to keep up with sales

Detroit automakers race to keep up with sales

AP Photo
In this Feb. 8, 2012 photo, Laurie Schmald Moncrieff president of Schmald Tool and Die in Burton, Mich., sits in her shop. Moncrieff says she began shifting from autos to the green energy, aerospace and defense industries when demand collapsed.

DETROIT (AP) -- Auto sales are growing so fast that Detroit can barely keep up.

Three years after the U.S. auto industry nearly collapsed, sales of cars and trucks are surging. Sales could exceed 14 million this year, above last year's 12.8 million.

The result: Carmakers are adding shifts and hiring thousands of workers around the country. Carmakers and parts companies added more than 38,000 jobs last year, reaching a total of 717,000. And automakers have announced plans to add another 13,000 this year, mostly on night shifts.

But there's a downside. The newfound success is straining the factory network of the Detroit automakers, as well as the companies that make the thousands of parts that go into each vehicle. This could lead to shortages that drive up prices.

And it also has auto executives in a quandary. They got into trouble in the first place largely because their costs were too high. Now, they fear adding too many workers.

Ford, for instance, is "squeezing every last component, transmission, engine out of the existing brick and mortar," says Jim Tetreault, vice president of North America manufacturing.

Still, the hiring surge bolsters the argument of those who supported the federal bailout of General Motors and Chrysler in 2008 and 2009. The bailout has been a major issue in the days leading up to Tuesday's Michigan Republican primary.

And the hiring is good news for communities around the country that saw hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs disappear. Starting in 2005, GM, Ford and Chrysler closed 28 factories and eliminated 88,000 jobs. Parts companies cut another 234,000.

Now, if sales hit 15 million by 2015, as some experts predict, the three Detroit automakers could hire another 20,000 people, predicts Sean McAlinden, chief economist for the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.

"You can only squeeze so much out of the same amount of people," says Itay Michaeli, an auto analyst at Citi Investment Research.

Laurie Schmald Moncrieff, president of a small parts-manufacturing company near Flint, Mich., says when demand for auto parts collapsed, she shifted production to parts for companies in green energy, aerospace and defense.

Now, automakers and other parts suppliers have her on speed dial, trying to line up everything from fuel pump parts to tools that make hoses. She just added six workers and may hire another five. "I see tremendous growth coming in the near-term," she says.

Like many parts suppliers, she's having trouble finding people with the skills to run machinery in her plant.

The hiring binge couldn't have happened at a better time for Michigan. Many of the new auto jobs came around the Great Lakes where the Detroit Three have most of their factories.

The bailout that helped bring the jobs could be a deciding factor in who wins the Republican presidential nomination. Both front-runners, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney, opposed the bailout, and Tuesday's Michigan primary will show whether Romney damaged his chances in his native state.

Romney stuck to his stance on Monday, saying in an appearance on Fox News that President Obama favored the United Auto Workers union in the bailout. The president "was paying off the people that supported him and that, by the way, are trying to get him re-elected," Romney said.

But in a state where unemployment was above 14 percent just three years ago, any jobs are welcome. And Michigan is not the only region to benefit. Ford is adding positions in Louisville, Ky., Chicago and near Kansas City, Mo. Chrysler is adding jobs in Belvidere, Ill., and General Motors is hiring at plants in Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas and New York.

New jobs with auto companies don't pay as well as the old ones. Under union contracts, companies can pay new hires around $16 per hour, a little more than half the pay of longtime workers.

Foreign carmakers are also shifting production to the U.S. because of higher sales and the weak dollar, which cuts the profits they get from selling vehicles exported to America. Nissan is adding workers in Tennessee. Toyota just hired staff at a new plant in Blue Springs, Miss. Honda is hiring in Alabama and Ohio. Hyundai and Kia plants in Alabama and Georgia are running flat-out but can't meet demand for some models such as the Hyundai Sonata and Elantra.

The sales rebound comes with risks that are familiar to Detroit. Crank up production too much and carmakers have to sell vehicles at deep discounts. Boost production too little, and companies could run short of vehicles such as pickup trucks. And even if they find the right balance now, automakers are leery of raising long-term costs by adding plants and workers.

Six years ago, Detroit's automakers were losing billions, in part because they had too many plants and workers. And union contracts forced them to pay workers even if plants were shut down. So automakers kept the factories running regardless of whether vehicles would sell in order to cover expenses. They built too many cars and trucks and sold them cheap, sometimes at a loss.

Now, they're doing everything they can to keep costs under control.

Growth is putting the squeeze on Hyundai and Kia factories. But the affiliated companies will build as many vehicles as possible at two U.S. plants before constructing a new factory. John Krafcik, Hyundai's U.S. CEO, says the first choice is to find areas inside the plants that are slowing the assembly lines and fix them, "because plants are expensive."

GM also will try to handle growth by stretching factories, says North American President Mark Reuss. But he thinks the company will have to hire more workers if sales this year reach 13.5 million or beyond.

Auto factories in North America will reach 90 percent of their capacity if sales hit 14 million, says Michael Robinet, managing director of IHS Automotive Consulting, which forecasts auto production.

The lack of factories, though, could cause automakers to run short of pickup trucks this year, says McAlinden.

Detroit automakers, which dominate truck sales, had far too many pickup factories just seven years ago. They have closed eight truck plants since 2005, removing the ability to build 2.25 million pickups a year. With only nine North American pickup plants left, they may have cut too much, McAlinden says.

Last year Americans bought 1.8 million pickups, an 11 percent increase over 2010, as the economy improved and small and large businesses began replacing their aging vehicles. Pent-up demand is fueling the sales. The average age of a truck on U.S. roads has reached a record 11 years.

If sales increase as projected, companies also could run short of compact cars and small SUVs.

It adds up to what could be a challenging but profitable year for the industry, says Schmald Moncrieff, who runs the Michigan parts factory.

"A lot of things are going to start breaking loose all at once," she says.

Star witness: Other students viewed Rutgers webcam

Star witness: Other students viewed Rutgers webcam

AP Photo
Molly Wei testifies during the trial of Dharun Ravi at the Middlesex County Courthouse on Monday, Feb. 27, 2012 in New Brunswick, N.J. Ravi is accused of using a webcam to spy on his roommate, Tyler Clementi, intimate encounter with another man. Days later Clementi committed suicide. Ravi, 19, faces 15 criminal charges, including invasion of privacy and bias intimidation, a hate crime punishable by up to 10 years in state prison.

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) -- A key prosecution witness in the trial of a former Rutgers University student accused of watching his roommate's intimate encounter via webcam testified Monday that she agreed to keep it a secret because it was so shocking to see the images - but that it wasn't under wraps for long.

"First of all, it was shocking. It felt wrong. We didn't expect to see that. And now that what we did, it was like we shouldn't have seen it," Molly Wei said told jurors. "We didn't want people to know what had happened."

But within minutes, she testified, she and defendant Dharun Ravi were online chatting with friends about seeing two men kissing. And within the hour, Wei said, she agreed to show a few seconds of the video stream to four other women who visited her dorm room.

Still, she said, Ravi did not intend to humiliate his roommate.

Ravi's roommate, 18-year-old Tyler Clementi, jumped to his death from New York's George Washington Bridge in September 2010, days after the spying and the gossip about it online and in their dorm.

Ravi, who turns 20 on Tuesday, faces 15 criminal counts, including invasion of privacy and bias intimidation. To convict him of bias intimidation, the most serious charge he faces, prosecutors would have to persuade jurors that Ravi acted out of bias toward gays.

Wei, 19, was charged initially but entered a program that will allow her to keep her record clean if she meets a list of conditions, including doing community service, working or attending school full-time. She also agreed to cooperate with authorities and testify truthfully in Ravi's trial.

She said she has completed about 250 of the 300 hours of community service required.

There is one requirement that was changed for her. She was to go through a program on cyberbullying or dealing with people with "alternative lifestyles." Since no program like that was offered in Middlesex County, she instead saw a psychologist.

Unlike other more casually dressed college students who have testified so far in the trial, Wei wore a black business suit. And unlike the others, she kept her voice audible even during the most uncomfortable moments.

She said that she invited Ravi, whom she had known since middle school, to her dorm room for a snack a few minutes after 9 p.m. on Sept. 19, 2010. When Ravi tried to go back, she said, Clementi told him that he wanted the cramped dorm room to himself for a few hours. So Ravi returned.

Within a few minutes, she said, he used her computer to view live images from his webcam. It was then, she said, that she saw about two seconds of Clementi and an older man kissing.

Even though she said they initially agreed not to talk about what they had seen, she asked Ravi to tell a friend about it during an online chat that began at 9:20 p.m. And within minutes, word got around the dorm.

She said she agreed to turn the webcam back on at the request of a woman who was among a group dropped by her room.

"It was the exact same image, except that they had taken their tops off," she said. "As soon as they saw it, I turned it off."

Ravi's defense lawyer, Steven Altman, asked a series of questions about Ravi's intentions.

- "Dharun never told you he wants you to go around telling everybody about what you saw on those two seconds Sunday night?"

- "Dharun never told you he wanted to make Tyler uncomfortable?"

- "Dharun never told you he wanted to intimidate Tyler?"

To each, she answered, "No."

Wei was expected to be back on the witness stand for more cross-examination on Tuesday.

Also Monday, jurors heard from university official William O'Brien that Clementi requested a room change about 30 hours after the alleged spying - and a day before he killed himself.

O'Brien, associate director of residence life at Rutgers, told jurors that his staff did not see Clementi's request for a new roommate until after he was reported missing from campus.

1 dead, 4 wounded in Ohio high school shooting

1 dead, 4 wounded in Ohio high school shooting

AP Photo
An Ohio Highway Patrol helicopter takes off from the rear of Chardon High School in Chardon, Ohio Monday, Feb. 27, 2012. A gunman opened fire inside the high school's cafeteria at the start of the school day Monday, wounding five students, officials said. Special Agent Vicki Anderson said Monday the shooter was taken into custody near his car about half a mile (one kilometer) away from the high school. A spokeswoman for the Cleveland Clinic confirmed five students were being treated at two different hospitals.

CHARDON, Ohio (AP) -- A teenager opened fire in the cafeteria at his suburban Cleveland high school Monday, killing one student and wounding four others before he was chased from the building by a teacher and captured a short distance away, authorities said.

A student who saw the attack up close said it appeared that the gunman targeted a group of students sitting together and that the one who was killed was gunned down while trying to duck under the cafeteria table.

FBI officials would not comment on a motive. And Police Chief Tim McKenna said authorities "have a lot of homework to do yet" in their investigation of the shooting, which sent students screaming through the halls at the start of the school day at 1,100-student Chardon High.

Teachers locked down their classrooms as they had been trained to do during drills, and students took cover as they waited for the all-clear in this town of 5,100 people 30 miles from Cleveland. One teacher was said to have dragged a wounded student into his classroom for protection. Another chased the gunman out of the building, police said.

The suspect, whose name was not released because he is a juvenile, was arrested near his car a half-mile away, the FBI said. He was not immediately charged.

Fifteen-year-old Danny Komertz, who witnessed the shooting, said the gunman was known as an outcast who had apparently been bullied. But other students disputed that.

"Even though he was quiet, he still had friends," said Tyler Lillash, 16. "He was not bullied."

Long before official word came of the attack, parents learned of the bloodshed from students via text message and cellphone and thronged the streets around the school, anxiously awaiting word on their children.

Two of the wounded were listed in critical condition, and another was in serious condition.

"I looked up and this kid was pointing a gun about 10 feet away from me to a group of four kids sitting at a table," Komertz said. He said the gunman fired two shots quickly, and students scrambled for safety. One of them was "trying to get underneath the table, trying to hide, protecting his face."

The slain student, Daniel Parmertor, was an aspiring computer repairman who was waiting in the cafeteria for the bus for his daily 15-minute ride to a vocational school. His teacher at the Auburn Career School had no idea why Parmertor, "a very good young man, very quiet," had been targeted, said Auburn superintendent Maggie Lynch.

Officers investigating the shooting blocked off a road in a heavily wooded area several miles from the school. Federal agents patrolled the muddy driveway leading to several spacious homes and ponds, while other officers walked a snowy hillside. A police dog was brought in. It wasn't clear what they were looking for.

Teacher Joe Ricci had just begun class when he heard shots and slammed the door to his classroom, yelling, "Lockdown!" to students, according to Karli Sensibello, a student whose sister was in Ricci's classroom.

A few minutes later, Ricci heard a student moaning outside, opened the door and pulled in student Nick Walczak who had been shot several times, Sensibello said in an email. Ricci comforted Walczak and let him use his cellphone to call his girlfriend and parents, Sensibello said. She said her sister was too upset to talk.

Heather Ziska, 17, said she was in the cafeteria when she saw a boy she recognized as a fellow student come into the cafeteria and start shooting. She said she and several others immediately ran outside, while other friends ran into a middle school and others locked themselves in a teachers' lounge.

"Everybody just started running," said 17-year-old Megan Hennessy, who was in class when she heard loud noises. "Everyone was running and screaming down the hallway."

Rebecca Moser, 17, had just settled into her chemistry class when the school went into lockdown. The class of about 25 students ducked behind the lab tables at the back of the classroom, uncertain whether it was a drill.

Text messages started flying inside and outside the school, spreading information about what was happening and what friends and family were hearing outside the building.

"We all have cellphones, so people were constantly giving people updates - about what was going on, who the victims were, how they were doing," Moser said.

The school had no metal detectors, but current and past students said it had frequent security drills in case of a shooting.

Anxious parents of high school students were told to go to an elementary school to pick up their children.

Joe Bergant, Chardon school superintendent, said school was canceled Tuesday and grief counselors would be available to students and families.

"If you haven't hugged or kissed your kid in the last couple of days, take that time," he said.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Man Arrested After Entering Upper Darby Police Station With Loaded Gun And Threatening To Kill Cops

Man Arrested After Entering Upper Darby Police Station With Loaded Gun And Threatening To Kill Cops

(Kenneth Stewart of Glenolden) (credit: Upper Darby Police Department)

Kenneth Stewart of Glenolden

UPPER DARBY, Pa. (CBS) — A Glenolden, Delaware County man is facing attempted murder charges after he entered the Upper Darby Police station early Saturday morning with a loaded gun demanding that his girlfriend be released.

According to Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood, it was just after midnight on Saturday when 23-year-old Kenneth Stewart walked into the police station lobby high on drugs. His girlfriend was arrested earlier for drunk and disorderly conduct and Stewart wanted her out.

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

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Drexel Dragons Surging As NCAA Tournament Nears

Drexel Dragons Surging As NCAA Tournament Nears

FILE PHOTO

PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Game after game, the wins never stop coming at Drexel. Same with the doubts.

The Dragons have the kind of gaudy winning streak and overall record that would put some power conference teams in the discussion for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

In West Philadelphia, though, the Dragons wonder if their resume is sturdy enough to even make the tournament for the first time since 1996.

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

Philabundance To Open Grocery Store In Chester

Philabundance To Open Grocery Store In Chester

(credit: Philabundance.org)

CHESTER, Pa. (AP) — A southeastern Pennsylvania city will soon be getting its first supermarket in more than a decade, the project of a nonprofit organization best known for collecting and distributing emergency food aid, officials said.

Philabundance announced Friday that it had purchased a mostly vacant building in Chester that housed the city’s last supermarket before it closed in 2001.

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

Mandela, 93, hospitalized with stomach ailment

Mandela, 93, hospitalized with stomach ailment

AP Photo
FILE - In this Oct. 6, 2007 file photo, former South African President Nelson Mandela reacts as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, waves farewell after a meeting at the Nelson Mandela Foundation building in Johannesburg, South Africa. Former South African President Nelson Mandela has been hospitalized with a stomach ailment, according to a government statement issued Saturday Feb. 25, 2012 about the 93-year-old anti-apartheid icon.

JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- Former South African President Nelson Mandela was hospitalized Saturday for a test to determine what is behind an undisclosed stomach ailment, and the country's current leader said the much beloved 93-year-old icon was in no danger.

Mandela, a Nobel peace laureate who spent 27 years in prison for fighting racist white rule, has officially retired and last appeared in public in July 2010. He became South Africa's first black president in 1994 and served one five-year term.

Mandela "has had a long-standing abdominal complaint and doctors feel it needs proper specialist medical attention," President Jacob Zuma said in a statement Saturday morning, asking that Mandela's privacy be respected.

In a follow-up statement later, Zuma added that Mandela had undergone a planned, undisclosed "diagnostic procedure."

Mandela "is fine and fully conscious and the doctors are satisfied with his condition, which they say is consistent with his age," Zuma said. "We are happy that he is not in any danger."

Zuma said Mandela was expected to be discharged from the hospital Sunday or Monday.

The statements did not say at which hospital Mandela was being treated, apparently to protect his privacy, but that did not stop journalists from camping out at a military hospital in the capital, Pretoria, on the chance he might be there. In 2011, Mandela spent a few days in a private Johannesburg hospital with an acute respiratory infection.

The South African military, which took charge of Mandela's health care after he was hospitalized last year, and a spokesman for Mandela's office said they would have no statement Saturday.

ANC spokesman Keith Khoza said Zuma's office also had reassured ANC officials.

Mandela "just had abdominal pains for some time now and the doctors decided a while ago that perhaps they should admit him, with a view to check those abdominal pains, so it wasn't an emergency admission," Khoza told reporters. "He's fine, he's in good health."

Well-wishers like Derek Kemper, a 47-year-old emergency services consultant, said they hoped Mandela would soon recover.

Kemper said he fought the ANC as a soldier for the apartheid state. On Saturday, Kemper was touring Soweto, the famed Johannesburg township set aside for blacks under apartheid and still largely black and poor, with a group of other whites. Kemper marveled at how far the country had come, and credited Mandela.

"He had the wisdom to try to reunite the country." Kemper said, speaking in front of a Soweto home where Mandela once lived that has been turned into a museum celebrating Mandela's life.

Kemper said he believed that even though Mandela has largely retired from public life, he has a moderating influence on younger black South Africans who may be impatient with the pace of change in a country where the black majority remains poor. Kemper said he worried about whether the commitment to reconciliation would outlive Mandela.

But Kefiloe Molepo, a 19-year-old student who grew up just around the corner from Mandela's home, said there was little cause for concern. Molepo, walking home from church, said he was raised on stories about Mandela, who he said was a friend of his great-grandfather.

"When he was set free, he didn't think of vengeance," Molepo said. "He wanted peace for the nation."

In 1993, after white extremists killed Chris Hani, a black leader who at the time was second only to Mandela in popularity, Mandela went on national television to call for calm. Mandela wrote later that he was among those who feared Hani's death would spark a race war, and his measured words were credited with averting further violence.

Today, white extremists have been largely sidelined. And black militants like Julius Malema, head of the ANC's youth wing, grab headlines but struggle to draw crowds.

Christian Bohm, a 32-year-old Swedish telecommunications company employee who was visiting the Mandela museum Saturday, said Mandela had set an example for the world for how leaders can pursue justice.

"South Africa is very privileged to have had such a leader," said Bohm, comparing Mandela to India's Mahatma Gandhi.

Hassan Burma was visiting Soweto from South Sudan, Africa's newest nation.

South Sudan broke away from Sudan last year, and its leaders must now cope with the devastation of decades of civil war. Burma said Mandela has shown Africa has different possibilities.

"What he did wasn't just for South Africa," Burma said. "It is for all the African nations."

Mandela's public appearances have become increasingly rare, though he did appear at the closing ceremony of the World Cup in July 2010. Mandela also held a private meeting with Michelle Obama when the U.S. first lady traveled to South Africa with her daughters last year.

Mandela has taken up permanent residence at his home in Qunu, in the southwestern region of South Africa where he was raised. Earlier this year, Mandela came to his Johannesburg home for what Zuma's office said would be a brief stay while maintenance was done at his Qunu home. Zuma's office said then that Mandela was in good health.

Mandela's last surviving sibling, a sister, died last month near Qunu. Makhulu Nothusile Bhulehluthi was 82. Nkosi Mphakanyiswa Gadla Mandela, their father, had several wives and 31 children.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Pa. Top Court Gives Uninsured Drivers Right To Sue If Injured

Pa. Top Court Gives Uninsured Drivers Right To Sue If Injured


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — If an uninsured driver gets injured after being hit by a driver who is covered, can the uninsured driver sue for damages?

The Pennsylvania state Supreme Court says yes.

The issue stems from a 2006 incident in Bristol (Bucks County), Pa. An uninsured driver was on Route 413 when her car was hit by a driver who did have insurance.

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


Ala girl's short life full of turmoil before death

Ala girl's short life full of turmoil before death

AP Photo
Gail Denny places a candle and stuffed animal outside the home of 9-year-old Savannah Hardin near Attalla, Ala., Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012. Authorities say Hardin was forced to run for three hours as punishment for having lied to her grandmother about eating candy bars. The severely dehydrated girl had a seizure and her death days later was ruled a homicide.

ATTALLA, Ala. (AP) -- Savannah Hardin's life was in turmoil long before police say the 9-year-old was run to death by her grandmother and stepmother for allegedly lying about some candy she ate.

Divorce and custody documents filed in family court over a period of several years reflect a history of fractured family relationships, with Savannah's divorced parents fighting over her welfare; claims of mental instability and abuse between her father and his second wife; medical problems that required frequent doctor visits; and counseling for the girl who still somehow managed to remain among the top students in her third-grade class.

Authorities say Savannah's life ended in exhaustion earlier this month when she was forced by her paternal grandmother, Joyce Hardin Gerrard, to run for three hours, while her stepmother, Jessica Mae Hardin, did nothing to stop it.

The grandmother prodded her along cruelly, and the stepmother didn't intervene until Savannah collapsed in an unconscious heap, investigators say.

Now, Hardin Garrard is in jail and Savannah's stepmother is being held in police custody at a hospital after giving birth to another child. Both have been charged with murder.

Jessica Mae Hardin's attorneys, Morgan Cunningham and Vince Pentecost, said in a statement Friday that Hardin was "incredibly devastated over Savannah's death" and they would prove her innocence.

"Unfortunately, whenever a child passes away, our society wants to place blame, our media wants to sensationalize and our elected officials want to make grandiose statements that are not based in fact," they said.

A defense lawyer representing the grandmother said she will be cleared of any crime.

"Even then, Joyce Garrard and her family will continue to grieve over the loss of their beloved Savannah," Dani Bone said.

Neighbors and classmates created a small memorial for Savannah, depositing stuffed animals and flowers and attaching balloons to a wooden fence surrounding the trailer where she lived with her family off a dirt road. Included in the informal memorial was a white wooden cross hung with a ribbon and to which a poem had been attached. A neighbor of Savannah's family, Gail Denny, held back tears as she placed a candle and a stuffed animal at the site Wednesday. She noted that on Valentine's Day, her grandson had asked Savannah to be his girlfriend, and she said yes.

"I just can't believe it," she said of Savannah's death.

A few miles away at Carlisle Elementary School, students placed written letters and hand-drawn pictures on Savannah's desk, which was brought into a main hallway.

"Savannah was an excellent student, earning A's and B's in her school work," said a statement released by school Principal Linda Johnson. "Her favorite subject was math; she enjoyed reading books to earn points in the Accelerated Reader program - and was very proud of always meeting her reading goals. ... Savannah was a happy child at school. She always wore a smile, and often brightened the day of teachers and administrators with her kind comments."

Many who knew Savannah described her as normal and happy. She played and laughed with other kids at the bus stop, and sometimes rode a four-wheeler with her dad when he visited, they said. She loved horses and her favorite colors were lime green, hot pink and ocean blue, Johnson said in her statement.

Court documents filed by Savannah's father, Robert Hardin, last May show she attended counseling sessions every other week but seemed well adjusted.

But the records also tell a different story, that of a brief life rocked by tumult.

Robert and Savannah's biological mother, Heather Hardin, divorced in July 2006 when she was 3, the records show. The former couple shared custody of the girl, but the mother was her primary caregiver.

Each one of the parents later moved separately to Florida, according to a sworn statement by Robert Hardin. Hardin claimed that Heather Hardin was unfit to care for Savannah and that the child began living with him in October 2009. He said they moved northeast of Birmingham in January 2010. Hardin later married Jessica Mae, with whom he had a son, now 3.

Hardin works for the U.S. State Department and lived outside the country, so Jessica Mae and Joyce Hardin Garrard cared for Savannah and the boy, said a spokeswoman for the Etowah County Sheriff's office, Natalie Barton. Hardin and Jessica split in July 2010, court documents show, with him claiming she had bipolar disorder and alcoholic tendencies. She, in turn, accused him of mental and physical abuse, including pushing her against a wall and throwing her onto a sofa. She also accused him of transferring ownership of the mobile home to Hardin Gerrard to prevent Jessica from getting it in the divorce. Despite claiming they could no longer live together, the two reconciled by late 2010.

Court documents also show Savannah had an unspecified medical condition that required continuous medication and treatment, including monthly visits with her regular doctor and trips every few months to see a urologist in Birmingham, about 60 miles away.

Authorities say the grandmother became angry when Savannah allegedly ate chocolate, because it contains caffeine, and the girl was not supposed to ingest caffeine given her condition.

Sometime during the afternoon of Feb. 17, Joyce Hardin Gerrard allegedly forced Savannah to begin running in the yard outside their trailer. Barton said the grandmother was running the little girl "like a drill sergeant," pushing her to keep running by saying things like "Keep going!"

Barton said there is some evidence that the girl also was picking up sticks and other items in the yard and placing them in a burn pile. A large pile of unburned sticks and other items could be seen Friday behind the family's mobile home.

The stepmother, Jessica Mae Hardin, didn't intervene and call 911 until after the girl collapsed about three hours into her ordeal, Barton said. Savannah was taken to an area hospital and then later transferred to a hospital in Birmingham, where she was put on life support. Her father made the decision to disconnect her, and she died Monday.

While court documents show the girl's biological mother, Heather Hardin, hadn't been able to see her in months, an ex-husband said the woman rushed to Alabama from Florida in time to see Savannah in the hospital before she died. Authorities said an autopsy showed the child was severely dehydrated and had an extremely low level of sodium, which is necessary for the body to prevent seizures and dehydration.

With both Joyce Garrard and Jessica Hardin in police custody, state welfare officials said a relative is now caring for Savannah's younger half-brother. The same person will care for Jessica Mae Hardin's newborn, they said.

Friends and strangers alike have posted scores of messages on a remembrance site set up on Facebook, with many of them saying they wished something could have been done to save Savannah's life.

More Quran protests leave 7 dead in Afghanistan

More Quran protests leave 7 dead in Afghanistan

AP Photo
Afghans display an effigy of the US President Barack Obama during anti-US protest over burning of Qurans at a military bass in Afghanistan, in Ghani Khail, east of Kabul Friday, Feb. 24,2012.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan called on his troops to resist any urge to avenge the death of two American soldiers killed in riots over the burning of Qurans at a U.S. base, even as renewed protests Friday claimed at least seven lives.

The anti-American demonstrations by thousands of Afghans who took to the streets after midday prayers were further evidence that President Barack Obama's apology has failed to quiet the outrage over what the U.S. says was the inadvertent destruction of the holy books.

The killing of the two U.S. soldiers and the civil unrest have further strained Afghanistan's relations with the United States. Afghan President Hamid Karzai is trying to negotiate a long-term partnership agreement with the United States to govern the activities of U.S. forces in his country after 2014, when most foreign combat troops will have left or taken on support roles.

The violence against coalition troops also comes at a time when many countries contributing to the force are seeking to accelerate their withdrawal from what has become an unpopular and costly war that has dragged on for more than 10 years.

At least 20 people, including the two U.S. soldiers, have been killed in four days of violence.

Protesters have ignored appeals by Karzai, parliamentarians and some clerics for an end to the violence until an investigation into the incident at Bagram Air Field is concluded in coming days.

Afghan officials said seven people were killed around the country Friday by Afghan security forces trying to disperse crowds or responding to gunfire from protesters.

One of the dead was part of a crowd trying to storm a Hungarian military base in northern Baghlan province. Six others were killed in western Herat province, including three people who died when a truck full of ammunition exploded after protesters set it ablaze, the governor's office said.

Anti-American protesters also gathered in several locations around Kabul, including in the city's east, where a demonstrator, his clothes covered in blood, was carried from the scene as about 200 police tried to push the crowd back.

Police sprayed volleys of automatic rifle fire over the heads of protesters chanting "Death to America!" in an effort to prevent them from reaching the defense ministry, located close to the American Embassy.

U.S. Gen. John Allen, who commands all U.S. and coalition troops, traveled late Thursday to the American base in the east where an Afghan soldier opened fire on U.S. troops, killing two Americans.

"There will be moments like this when you're searching for the meaning of this loss. There will be moments like this when your emotions are governed by anger and a desire to strike back," Allen said in comments NATO released Friday.

"Now is not the time for revenge. Now is not the time for vengeance. Now is the time to look deep inside your souls, remember your mission, remember your discipline, remember who you are."

Allen, who was accompanied by Afghan National Army Gen. Sher Mohammed Karimi, told soldiers that "now is how we show the Afghan people that as bad as that act was in Bagram, it was unintentional and American and ISAF soldiers do not stand for this." ISAF is the acronym for the International Security Assistance Force, the formal name of the U.S.-led international military coalition fighting in Afghanistan.

The two U.S. troops were killed during a protest Thursday outside the American base in the Khogyani district of Nangarhar province. Two protesters were killed by Afghan police there before the Afghan soldier turned his gun on U.S. troops. He then fled into the crowd.

Karimi told the U.S. troops that their sacrifice is not wasted.

"It is a rewarding mission and this enemy fighting against us, is not an enemy of Afghanistan, it is an enemy of the whole of humanity," Karimi said.

It was the latest in a rising spate of incidents where Afghan soldiers or police, or militants wearing their uniforms, have shot and killed U.S. and NATO service members.

The unrest started Tuesday, when Afghan workers at the sprawling Bagram air base noticed that Qurans and other Islamic texts were in the trash that coalition troops dumped into a pit where garbage is burned. Some Afghan workers burned their fingers as they tried to salvage some of the books. Afghan government officials said initial reports indicated four Qurans were burned.

U.S. officials said the materials had been taken from a library at Parwan Detention Facility, which adjoins the base, because they contained extremist messages or inscriptions. Writing inside a Quran is forbidden in the Islamic faith, although it was unclear whether the handwritten messages were found in the holy book or other reading materials.

A military official said it appeared that detainees at the prison were exchanging messages by making notations in the texts.

Obama apologized in a letter to Karzai Thursday, expressing "regret and apologies over the incident in which religious materials were unintentionally mishandled."

Many Afghan protesters dismissed Obama's words as insufficient.

"We don't care about Obama's apology," said Kamaluddin, a 25-year-old Kabul protester who uses only one name. "We have to protest to be responsible to our God. They are burning our Quran. An apology is not enough."

In the U.S., a senior Pentagon official reached out to American Muslims, offering an apology Friday during prayers services at one of the nation's largest mosques, in suburban Washington.

"I come here today to apologize on behalf of the Department of Defense for the incident that took place in Afghanistan this week," Peter Lavoy, acting assistant secretary of defense for Asia and Pacific security affairs, told worshippers at the ADAMS Center in Sterling, Va.

Pentagon press secretary George Little said the appearance was part of a broad effort by the administration to try to defuse the controversy.

"This is an issue we know is of concern, not only to Afghans, but to other Muslims around the world, including in the United States," Little said. "We want to send a strong signal to the American Muslim community that we deplore what happened and apologize for it."

Imam Mohamed Magid, president of the Islamic Society of North America, said Friday's session was designed to let Muslims around the world know that American Muslims were concerned about the incident but were able to accept an apology and promise of a thorough investigation without resorting to violence.

Chavez flies to Cuba for urgent tumor removal

Chavez flies to Cuba for urgent tumor removal

AP Photo
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez catches a flower thrown by supporters during his caravan from Miraflores presidential palace to the airport in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday Feb. 24, 2012. Chavez bid an emotional goodbye to soldiers and supporters and waved to crowded streets in Caracas on his way to Cuba for urgent surgery to remove a tumor he says is probably malignant.

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- President Hugo Chavez bid an emotional farewell laced with references to Jesus Christ and independence hero Simon Bolivar as he departed Venezuela on Friday for Cuba for urgent surgery to remove a tumor he says is probably malignant.

Clasping the hand of his youngest daughter, Chavez addressed allies of his socialist political movement and troops standing at attention at the Miraflores presidential palace.

"I say this from my gut: With cancer or without cancer ... come rain, thunder or lightning ... nobody can avoid a great patriotic victory Oct. 7," the president said, referring to the date of Venezuela's presidential election.

"Long live Chavez!" he cried.

The socialist president, who is seeking a fourth term, referenced Bolivar and Christ's burdens to describe his battle with cancer.

"Our (founding) father Simon Bolivar once said, 'I am a man of troubles.' I say as a son of Bolivar, I too am a man of troubles. We are a people of troubles," Chavez said. "Let the troubles come and add like the cross of Christ to the definitive liberation of the country. With the cross of Christ, one must sometimes bear pain as a spur to love. It is fuel for love."

Chavez's black SUV left the palace and rolled slowly through the capital, with red-shirted bodyguards clinging to the running boards. His head and shoulders sticking out of the sunroof, the firebrand president waved to onlookers lining the avenues and people flying Venezuelan flags from rooftops.

A motorcade of white vans and police vehicles with flashing lights followed Chavez to the airport, where he shook hands with officials and spoke briefly before taking off for Cuba in the presidential plane.

Chavez, 57, is turning to the same Cuban doctors who extracted a baseball-size cancerous tumor from his pelvic region last summer. This time, the growth is smaller, about an inch (two centimeters) in diameter.

Cuba and Venezuela are staunch allies, and Chavez enjoys a warm relationship with former leader Fidel Castro and his brother, President Raul Castro.

The Venezuelan president has not disclosed the precise location of either tumor, nor said what kind of cancer he had, but described next week's surgery as urgent.

Cuban health care is generally considered good, but oncology experts not involved with Chavez's care say he could be taking a risk by skipping more respected facilities in the United States, Europe or Brazil - which has Latin America's most advanced cancer centers with specialized radiation equipment.

"If you have a 'common' cancer, that of the breast, colon or lung ... then it's going to be easy to find standards of care that are the same in the U.S., Brazil or Cuba," said Dr. Julian Molina, an oncologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. "The problem comes when you have a tumor that's not one of the common ones, and that's what most of us suspect Chavez has."

Latin America's top cancer doctor, Paulo Hoff, who heads the cancer center at Sao Paulo's Sirio-Libanes hospital, considered the region's best, would not talk specifically about Chavez's case. But he did say that a cancerous tumor in the pelvic region would be mainly limited to four types: prostate, rectal, bladder and sarcoma, the latter being a rare and deadly form of tumor.

National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, a retired army lieutenant who accompanied Chavez in his failed 1992 coup, said Friday that the Venezuelan opposition should be the most worried about the president's survival.

"The people in the street will not retreat a single millimeter, not a single millimeter, from what has been accomplished in these 13 years" since Chavez took office, Cabello said.

Chavez allies have accused their political foes of hoping the president will die, opening a door for the opposition to win the Oct. 7 vote.

Rival candidate Henrique Capriles has rejected such allegations and said he wishes for a Chavez recovery so Capriles can triumph "fair and square."

Luis Vicente Leon, director of local polling firm Datanalisis, said Chavez's most important political concern is convincing people that he's healthy.

"It is a different scenario if in the mind of voters an idea remains that the president is ill, with his near future compromised," Leon said.

As Chavez's motorcade traveled through the streets, hundreds of supporters covered his SUV with flowers and even a portrait of Jesus that read: "I will heal you. Forward, commander!" At one point Chavez wiped his eyes and tossed the handkerchief to the crowd, which surged forward seeking to touch him. Some women holding portraits of the president yelled "We love you Chavez!" as the caravan passed.

"This goodbye should encourage him. I hope he returns and knows we love him," said Lucia Cabeza, an unemployed 24-year-old.

For others, it was just the latest spectacle surrounding a man with a confirmed flair for the theatric. He was given a similar send-off last summer when he flew to Cuba for treatment.

"It was a terrible exaggeration. They took him here, they took him there," said Fatima Abreu, a 47-year food vendor. "It's not the first time he's leaving, nor the first time he's having surgery. Even for his own health, he should be taking it easy."

"Chavez has been doing this for 13 years," added Margarita de Rodriguez, a 55-year-old homemaker. "Recently they celebrated the 4th of February, the coup that failed, and now they're making a circus of his illness. They always do everything thinking about the elections."

Chavez plans to continue governing from Cuba instead of delegating authority temporarily to Vice President Elias Jaua. He has not said when he might return to Venezuela.

Oil prices rising to near 2011 highs

Oil prices rising to near 2011 highs

AP Photo
Deborah Delauro waits as she puts gas in her car Friday, Feb. 24, 2012 in Philadelphia. The price of gasoline, which is made from crude oil, has soared as oil prices rise. The national average jumped by nearly 12 cents per gallon in a week, with state averages above $4 per gallon in California, Alaska and Hawaii.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Oil prices are approaching last year's highs as tensions increase over Iran's nuclear program. The rise pushed gasoline prices on Friday to a national average of $3.65 per gallon, the highest ever for this time of year.

Western nations fear Iran is building a nuclear weapon and have been trying to force it to open its facilities to inspection. Iran has refused, turning away international inspectors this week for the second time this month. The United Nations said Friday that Iran has responded to the recent scrutiny by speeding up production of higher-grade enriched uranium, feeding concerns that it is developing a bomb.

As both sides dig in for a protracted standoff, investors are snapping up oil contracts in case fighting breaks out in the heart of the one of the world's biggest oil-producing regions. "Everyone's pricing in the potential for war now," independent analyst Stephen Schork said. "Without a concrete resolution, nobody knows how high this can go."

Israel hasn't ruled out an attack on Iran, and Iran has said it is ready to strike pre-emptively, possibly targeting the Strait of Hormuz, if it is threatened. The Persian Gulf passageway is a potential choke point for oil supplies. One-fifth of the world's oil tankers pass through it every day.

On Friday benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude rose by $1.94 to end the week at $109.77 per barrel in New York. Brent crude rose by $1.85 to finish at $125.47 per barrel in London.

WTI peaked near $114 a barrel last May, while Brent rose above $126 per barrel.

The price of gasoline, which is made from crude oil, has soared with oil prices. The national average jumped by nearly 12 cents per gallon in a week, with state averages above $4 per gallon in California, Alaska and Hawaii.

It looks like they'll keep climbing.

Tom Kloza, publisher and chief oil analyst at Oil Price Information Service, said pump prices will add at least another 10 to 15 cents per gallon in coming days to reflect a recent jump in wholesale markets.

At $3.65 per gallon, gasoline is still below last year's high of $3.98 and the record $4.11 set in 2008. Kloza says pump prices are on pace to top both of those in coming months. He thinks gasoline will climb as high as $4.25 per gallon by late April.

The rise will weigh on the economy, pushing leisure and business travel costs higher. Every one-cent increase in the price of gasoline costs the economy $1.4 billon, analysts say.

Prices have been surging particularly on the West Coast where a BP refinery was shut down after a fire. That refinery in Blaine, Wash., is the third-largest on the West Coast with a production capacity of 230,000 barrels per day.

The closure comes at a tough time for the refining industry. Most refiners are already slowing production to get ready for a switch over from winter to more expensive summer fuel blends. The seasonal switch usually creates a temporary dip in supplies that pushes prices higher at this time of year. The loss of the BP refinery could make that dip even deeper.

Gasoline has become a major political issue this year as prices tick higher.

Some lawmakers have called on the Obama administration to release more oil from emergency stockpiles in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, but analysts say that would be ineffective. The government tried that last summer after the Libyan uprising shut down that country's oil fields. Prices dipped slightly but eventually rebounded.

Independent oil analyst Andrew Lipow pointed out that the U.S. has adequate oil supplies right now, and a release of reserves wouldn't make much sense. Traders are mostly concerned with how the Iran situation will affect supplies this summer. Nobody's sure what will happen, Lipow said, and that is pushing investors to buy more oil as an insurance policy against a major conflict.

"It's just unclear how this plays out," Lipow said. "The worry is that Iran will be forced into a position that they try to impact their neighbors in some way" and curtail oil production in the entire region.

In other energy trading, heating oil rose by 2 cents to finish at $3.32 per gallon, while gasoline futures rose by 4 cents to end at $3.15 per gallon. Natural gas prices fell by 7 cents to finish the week at $2.55 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

HoopGurlz At Phila. Front Page News

HoopGurlz At Phila. Front Page News

Kailee Johnson

True Hoops Religion

Junior forward Kailee Johnson is one of the marquee players for nationally ranked Central Catholic (Portland, Ore.) and for Team Concept, and now she's catching up in her recruiting process.

In a team sport like basketball, it's easy for a player's identity to become woven into her team's, her individuality to be minimized for the good of the collective.

Like the stitching on Kailee Johnson's favorite pair of True Religion jeans, her association with Team Concept has branded her on-court identity. Last summer, there wasn't a coach or scout who didn't hear about the Team Concept kids. The Portland, Ore.-based AAU program featured four of the nation's top players from the classes of 2013 and 2014.

But Johnson, despite being ranked No. 14 in the ESPNU HoopGurlz Super 60 for the Class of 2013, hasn't yet become a household name in recruiting circles like fellow junior Team Concept teammates Jordan Reynolds and Mercedes Russell, or even sophomore sensation Jaime Nared. The reasons why don't have anything to do with talent, of which Johnson, a 6-foot-3 forward, has plenty.

Kailee Johnson
Kailee Johnson was a part of a Team Concept club team from Oregon that made a lot of noise nationally.

Some of that perceived difference may have to do with Johnson's exclusion from the USA Basketball U16 National Team trials last May. Her birthday came after of the U16 cutoff, so while her three teammates headed to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., Johnson missed out on a chance to play in the national spotlight.

Then, during the summer circuit of 2011, Johnson suffered a severe ankle sprain at the End of the Trail in Oregon City, Ore., her team's first event of the NCAA-certified viewing period. "I tried to recover in a couple of days," Johnson said. "I just felt like it was an important summer to play."

At times, the pain was severe enough that she couldn't fight back the tears but felt she needed to be out there with her teammates, many of whom she's played with since she was in the fourth grade.

Perhaps that sense of loyalty and camaraderie helped Johnson and her teammates deal with the sudden influx of hype surrounding a team that many expect will produce more McDonald's All-Americans from its current roster than the state of Oregon has produced since 2002, when the McDonald's girls' game started. Not to mention the attention garnered from Team Concept coach and director Michael Abraham, who was unable to coach his team during the NCAA-certified viewing periods because of a rule new to 2011 restricting any person convicted of a felony from coaching in certified events. (Abraham was arrested on Oct. 28, 1998, for drug trafficking. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute and was sentenced to 18 months.)

"This summer when we started getting attention nationally it started to sink in," Johnson said. "It's still weird. I've been playing with most of these kids a long time."

Johnson was courted by her Central Catholic High School (Portland, Ore.) volleyball coach as a freshman and joined the team, so while some of her basketball teammates have used the fall season to make unofficial visits and research their schools of interest, she hasn't been able to do as much of it while playing her other sport. To date Johnson has made just two unofficial visits, to Duke and USC.

She visited Los Angeles last weekend, and in true Team Concept fashion, Johnson brought a beloved teammate with her -- Reynolds, who transferred to Central Catholic from Jefferson (Portland, Ore.) this season to play alongside her friend. The bond between Johnson and her AAU teammates is evident when she talks about a trip she was unable to make this fall with Reynolds and Russell when they visited Washington. While the quartet isn't set on signing as a package with a particular school, it's still something Johnson said is a possibility.

Kailee Johnson
Kailee Johnson has her Central Catholic High School (Portland, Ore.) team ranked in the POWERADE FAB 50 this season.

Johnson is also planning to visit California, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA and Washington, but still she is open to other programs. She also expressed interest in a couple of Ivy League programs -- Harvard and Princeton.

A quick glance at the schools she's expressed some interest in visiting demonstrates the importance of academics in Johnson's decision. She plans to study business management or marketing in college.

But more important than distance from her Portland, Ore., home or playing time as a freshman is the social aspect for the admitted extrovert. "The No. 1 thing I'm looking for is how I fit in with my coaches and my team," Johnson said. "I really want a coach who will be there four years."

Johnson certainly knows how difficult it can be to find the right fit. Thanks to her 37-and-a-half inch inseam, "I haven't been able to wear normal jeans since the seventh grade," Johnson said.

After searching for something that suited both her personal style and those extra-long limbs, she finally found discovered her signature True Religion skinny jeans. Like her team, they're a perfect fit.

76ers Defeated By Houston Rockets, 93-87

76ers Defeated By Houston Rockets, 93-87

(Sixers' forward Thaddeus Young.)

Sixers’ forward Thaddeus Young.

HOUSTON (AP) — Luis Scola had 19 points and 10 rebounds, Kyle Lowry added 13 points and two crucial three-point plays down the stretch, and the Houston Rockets beat the Philadelphia 76ers 93-87 on Wednesday night.

Kevin Martin scored 16 points and Patrick Patterson added 12 off the bench for the Rockets, who’ve won three in a row and snapped a four-game home-court losing streak to Philadelphia.

Nikola Vucevic scored a career-high 18 points and Thaddeus Young had 15 for the 76ers, who will head into the All-Star break on a five-game losing streak. The 76ers lost for only the second time in their past nine meetings with Houston.

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

Abington Confrontation Over Debt Results In Two People Shot

Abington Confrontation Over Debt Results In Two People Shot


NORTH HILLS, Pa. (CBS) – Two men were shot and a third struck by the handle of an axe during an argument in North Hills Wednesday night.

At around 9:30 p.m., 57-year-old John Razzi, 48-year-old Michael Razzi and 44-year-old Joseph Turco went to a business at 3009 Mt. Carmel Avenue to confront two men about a debt. Michael Razzi was armed with a bat or an axe handle, while Turco was in possession of an electronic stun gun.

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


Poll: Millionaire tax popular, spending cuts too

Poll: Millionaire tax popular, spending cuts too

AP Photo
President Barack Obama jogs down the stairs of Air Force One upon his arrival at Miami International Airport, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012 in Miami.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Most people like President Barack Obama's proposal to make millionaires pay a significant share of their incomes in taxes. Yet they'd still rather cut spending than boost taxes to balance the federal budget, an Associated Press-GfK poll shows, giving Republicans an edge over Democrats in their core ideological dispute over the nation's fiscal ills.

The survey suggests that while Obama's election-year tax plan targeting people making at least $1 million a year has won broad support, it has done little to shift people's basic views in the long-running partisan war over how best to tame budget deficits that lately have exceeded $1 trillion annually.

"Everybody should be called to sacrifice. They should be in the pot with the rest of us," Mike Whittles, 62, a Republican and retired police officer from Point Pleasant, N.J., said of his support for Obama's tax proposal for the wealthy. But Whittles said he still prefers cutting government spending over raising taxes because of federal waste and what he calls "too many rules, too many regulations."

Sixty-five percent of the people in the AP-GfK poll favor Obama's plan to require people making $1 million or more pay taxes equal to at least 30 percent of their income. Just 26 percent opposed Obama's idea.

Yet by 56 percent to 31 percent, more embraced cuts in government services than higher taxes as the best medicine for the budget, according to the survey, which was conducted Feb. 16 to 20. That response has changed only modestly since it was first asked in the AP-GfK poll last March. The question on Obama's tax on the rich was not asked previously.

The poll showed that overall, more people have a positive view of Democrats than Republicans, a ray of hope for Obama and his fellow Democrats with the approach of November's presidential and congressional elections. Fifty-four percent in the poll gave Democrats favorable ratings compared to 46 percent for Republicans, similar to results in January 2011, at the start of the newly elected Congress in which Republicans have run the House and Democrats wield a slender Senate majority.

Though embraced by congressional Democrats, Obama's proposal on taxing millionaires more has virtually no chance of passage by Congress in the political heat of this year's campaigns. But it stands as a rallying cry for Democrats - about 9 in 10 of whom supported the plan in the poll - and it contrasts with proposals by the remaining major GOP presidential candidates, who would lower the current 35 percent top income tax rate.

Obama has spent months touting his plan, nicknamed the Buffett rule after Warren Buffett, the billionaire who has complained that the rich don't pay enough taxes and that his own tax rate has been lower than his secretary's. The wealthy Mitt Romney, a leading GOP presidential contender, has released tax returns showing he paid a rate of around 15 percent the past two years.

Illustrating the wide acceptance for Obama's tax proposal for the rich, the poll showed it was supported by nearly two-thirds of independents and 4 in 10 Republicans. It also won backing from 6 in 10 whites and half of conservatives, two groups that traditionally are more likely to support the GOP, as well as by 6 in 10 people earning at least $100,000 a year.

Not everyone supports the idea.

"If their money goes to taxes, how will they afford more employees, better equipment, better vehicles?" said Republican Cheryl Mickler, 31, of Hope Mills, N.C.

As for the differing strategies for deficit reduction, more than three-fourths of Republicans and the largest share of independents preferred cutting government services. Democrats leaned toward tax increases, but by a narrower 49 percent to 38 percent.

Republicans have an 8 percentage point advantage over Democrats in the public's trust for handling budget deficits, essentially unchanged in recent months.

The GOP has the same edge for protecting the country, an issue it usually dominates. Peoples' trust in the two parties is about even for handling the economy, taxes and job creation.

Congress continues to receive dismal reviews from voters. Just 19 percent approve of the job Congress is doing, virtually unchanged from last December. That's not far from Congress' worst-ever approval rate in the brief history of the AP-GfK poll of 12 percent last August, shortly after Obama and lawmakers resolved a stubborn standoff over raising the debt limit.

"We put them there to do their job and they're not doing their job," said Gary Witalison, 54, a residential painter in Fish Creek, Wis. "They're not working things out. Work together."

The AP-GfK poll was conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications and involved cell phone and landline interviews with 1,000 randomly chosen adults. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

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