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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Wizards Snap 5-Game Skid With 97-76 Win Over 76ers

Wizards Snap 5-Game Skid With 97-76 Win Over 76ers

Thaddeus Young #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers shoots against Cartier Martin #20 and Kevin Seraphin #13 of the Washington Wizards during the game at the Verizon Center on March 30, 2012 in Washington, DC. (credit: Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)
Thaddeus Young #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers shoots against Cartier Martin #20 and Kevin Seraphin #13 of the Washington Wizards during the game at the Verizon Center on March 30, 2012 in Washington, DC.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Cartier Martin tied a career-high with 20 points in his second game under a 10-day contract, and the Washington Wizards built a big lead and held on to it for a change, breaking a five-game losing streak Friday night with a 97-76 win over the Philadelphia 76ers.

The loss knocked Philadelphia, at least temporarily, out of first place in the Atlantic Division, pending the result of the Boston-Minnesota game later Friday. The 76ers began the day tied with the Celtics.

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Valley Forge Casino Opens For Business

Valley Forge Casino Opens For Business

An artist's rendering of Valley Forge Casino's gaming floor. (Credit: VF Casino Resort)

An artist’s rendering of Valley Forge Casino’s gaming floor.

VALLEY FORGE, Pa. (CBS) – There’s a new casino in the Delaware Valley. The Valley Forge Casino Resort held a ceremonial ribbon-cutting Saturday morning.

The dice started rolling at a minute past midnight, a little early to stage a news conference and photo op. So, the dignitaries and the press assembled at 11 a.m.

“You’re talking about 600 slot machines, 50 tables. We have ten other casinos, Category 1 and 2, [they] have no less than 1800 machines,” says Gaming Control Board Chairman William Ryan, who adds that Valley Forge is on a smaller scale.

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Prosecutors File Documents That Push For Perjury Trial For Curley And Schultz

Prosecutors File Documents That Push For Perjury Trial For Curley And Schultz

(Gary Schultz, left, and Tim Curley leave a courtroom in Harrisburg, Pa. last December.  Credit: Rob Carr/ Getty Images)

Gary Schultz, left, and Tim Curley leave a courtroom in Harrisburg, Pa. last December.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Prosecutors on Friday filed a document listing 33 statements made by two Penn State administrators to support the perjury charges against the men, accused of lying to a grand jury investigating child sex abuse allegations against a former assistant football coach.

A second document defended the case and said a judge should not dismiss the charges.

The statements laid out by the state attorney general’s office are from January 2011, when athletic director Tim Curley and former vice president Gary Schultz appeared before a secret grand jury investigating Jerry Sandusky. Lawyers for Curley and Schultz said they would review the prosecution’s filings, which The Associated Press obtained late Friday.

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Pa. trial shows church abuse allegations strategy

Pa. trial shows church abuse allegations strategy

AP Photo
FILE - March 7, 2011Philip Gaughan, left, accompanied by, from the left, attorney Dan Monahan, his father Philip J. Gaughan, and wife Michelle Gaughan, speaks during a news conference in Philadelphia. Gaughan has a civil suit pending over abuse he said he suffered throughout his high school years by the pastor of his northeast Philadephia parish. Gaughan, 32, of Delaware, has been following coverage of a Philadelphia church official’s landmark child endangerment trial, and hopes to watch some of the testimony.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- The long, typed letter fantasizes about a seventh-grader's body, and asks if the boy wants to try various sex acts.

"You are soooo cute. I have been thinking about you for a long time. ... You're the cutest in our grade," the author wrote in a rare G-rated line.

But the anonymous author was not a classmate at the boy's Catholic school in northeast Philadelphia. It was a parish priest. One with a cache of gay pornography and sadomasochistic videos in the rectory.

Files show the letter-writing priest was sent to a church-run treatment center for priests, where staff concluded he did not have "a pathological interest in children or adults." Doctors racked the letter up to a single fantasy. And they believed him when he said he hadn't sent it - or acted out with children.

"Cardinal Bevilacqua is granting him a health leave, and that should be the announcement to the (St. Anselm's) parish," reads a December 1995 memo, found in secret personnel files at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

The memo, along with the priest's letter, aired in court this week in a landmark criminal trial in Philadelphia. Accused is Monsignor William Lynn, the first U.S. church official charged with child endangerment for allegedly leaving predator-priests in ministry, and conspiring with others to cover up the festering problem.

Prosecutors call the archdiocese of 1.5 million Catholics "an unindicted co-conspirator."

Defense lawyers counter that Lynn took orders from the archbishop during his 12-year run as secretary for clergy, when he supervised about 900 priests. Lynn, 61, faces years in prison if convicted.

By August 1996, the priest had been released, and reassigned to a far suburb. Lynn recommended that he return to full ministry, with no limits on his work with children. Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, who died this year, approved the plan, initializing Lynn's memo with his ornate "AB."

The priest's therapy notes - describing the "release of guilt" he felt after childhood whippings by his father and his "compulsive" interest in pornography and masturbation - were shipped to "File 3," archdiocesan code for the locked, secret archives room.

"That kind of information coming out through these trials, regardless of the verdict, is of enormous significance, for the church and also for our understanding of how sexual abuse was handled in institutions outside the church. ... That includes schools and prisons and youth groups and sports teams," said Timothy Lytton, an Albany Law School professor who wrote a book on the priest-abuse crisis.

The Catholic church is far from alone in protecting predators, he said, but its hierarchical nature gives authorities a long paper trail.

Philadelphia prosecutors have been investigating the archdiocese for 10 years, since the priest-abuse scandal exploded in Boston. Around the country, about 500 Roman Catholic priests have been convicted of child sex abuse, and dioceses have paid out more than $1 billion to victims.

Yet there's never been a man in Lynn's shoes.

When he took over the headquarters job in 1992, after serving as dean of the Philadelphia seminary, Lynn combed through the secret files. He drew up a list of 35 accused, still-active priests, and noted whether the accuser could still sue. In keeping with church protocol, he deemed priests `guilty' only if they had admitted the account.

Lynn gave the list to Bevilacqua, but memos show the late cardinal had it shredded. A copy was nonetheless found in a safe at the archdiocese in 2006.

Lytton noted that church leaders like Bevilacqua and his contemporaries, including Cardinal Bernard Law and Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahoney, courageously fought for civil rights, immigrants and the underprivileged, yet somehow failed society's most vulnerable.

"They were so focused on how to help the priests. In many cases, they lost sight of the children, and that's partly because I don't think they could appreciate the damage done to the children or the family structure. They're not fathers. And they don't have children," Lytton said.

Phil Gaughan never told anyone what a priest allegedly did to him until he had a son of his own. Then he saw someone innocently hug his toddler. His grief erupted.

"That's when I decided to tell," Gaughan, 32, said Friday. He told his family their beloved priest had molested him throughout high school, when he worked weekends at their northeast Philadelphia church.

"Nobody would have believed it (then)," said Gaughan, who sued the archdiocese last year. "I couldn't leave, or I'd lose my job. I was basically trapped in the back of the church with him."

The Associated Press generally does not identify people alleging sexual abuse, but Gaughan wants his name used in hopes of helping sex-abuse victims.

He said he was molested from 1993 to 1997. Two brothers confronted the same priest with decades-old allegations in 1994. The priest wanted to apologize, but Lynn - and church therapists - advised against it on legal grounds, according to the 2005 grand jury report. At least three other men, including a Philadelphia policeman, filed other complaints before Gaughan called the archdiocese last year.

Gaughan, now a portrait photographer in Delaware, accepts that Lynn didn't act alone. But he calls him "a big part" of the problem.

"There's a responsibility that comes with that job title," said Gaughan, who hopes to attend some of the trial. "It's a step in the right direction."

Friday, March 30, 2012

Sixers Try And Take Care Of Business Vs. Wizards

Sixers Try And Take Care Of Business Vs. Wizards

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

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – During the first half of the season, the Sixers beat up on bad teams to build a lead in the Atlantic Division. Now, they’ll have to beat those teams to keep it. That started Tuesday night against the Cavs, and continues tonight against the Washington Wizards.

The Sixers (28-22) have played the Wizards three times this year, winning all three by significant margins (31, 13, and 20 points). If that’s not enough, the teams played twice this pre-season, and the Sixers won both of those as well.

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Michael Vick Makes Another Anti-Dogfighting Appearance At A Philadelphia School

Michael Vick Makes Another Anti-Dogfighting Appearance At A Philadelphia School

(Philadelphia Eagles' quarterback Michael Vick, at Gratz High School.  Credit: Cherri Gregg)

Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback Michael Vick, at Gratz High School.

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback Michael Vick is continuing his work with the Humane Society. He spent the morning today speaking to students from Simon Gratz High School, encouraging them to treat all animals kindly.

“I vow to help more animals than I hurt — I feel like I owe that,” Vick told the students Friday.

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3 On Your Side: LIHEAP Deadline Extended

3 On Your Side: LIHEAP Deadline Extended

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) –The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare has announced that it is extending the application deadline by two extra weeks for people to apply for LIHEAP.

The deadline was originally today, but will now be April 13th.

If you live in Pennsylvania and have an outstanding balance on your home heating bill that you’re not able to pay, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, commonly known as LIHEAP, may be able to help.

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Students At Delaware High School Permitted To Wear Hoodies In Honor Of Trayvon Martin

Students At Delaware High School Permitted To Wear Hoodies In Honor Of Trayvon Martin

NEW CASTLE, Del. (CBS) – From Love Park, to the House floor, and churches throughout the country, hoodies have become a symbol for Trayvon Martin.

On Friday, students at William Penn High School in New Castle, Delaware were permitted to wear hoodies because of 18-year-old Warren Veney Jr.

“We’re hoping as they see people wearing hoodies, they’ll say, ‘What is this about and what does it stand for,’” said Veney.

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On the run, bin Laden lived in 5 houses

On the run, bin Laden lived in 5 houses

AP Photo
FILE - This Nov 18, 2011 file photo shows the guesthouse inside Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A widow of Osama bin Laden has told investigators that the al-Qaida leader lived in five safe houses while on the run in Pakistan and fathered four children, two of them born in government hospitals.

ISLAMABAD (AP) -- Osama bin Laden lived in five safe houses while on the run in Pakistan and fathered four children - two of them born in government hospitals, his youngest widow has told investigators.

The details of bin Laden's life as a fugitive in Pakistan are contained in the interrogation report of Amal Ahmed Abdel-Fatah al-Sada, bin Laden's 30-year-old Yemeni widow. They appear to raise fresh questions over how bin Laden was able to remain undetected for so long in Pakistan after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, despite being the subject of a massive international manhunt.

Details from the report were first published by the Pakistani newspaper Dawn.

The Associated Press obtained a copy on Friday.

Al-Sada is currently in Pakistani custody, along with bin Laden's two other wives and several children. They were arrested after the U.S raid that killed bin Laden in May in his final hideout in the Pakistani army town of Abbottabad. The U.S. Navy SEALs shot her in the leg during the operation.

Mohammed Amir Khalil, a lawyer for the three widows, said the women would be formally charged for illegally staying in Pakistan on April 2. That charge carries a maximum five-year prison sentence.

Since the raid that killed bin Laden, it has been known that he lived mostly in Pakistan since 2002.

Al-Sada's account says she flew to Pakistan in 2000 and traveled to Afghanistan where she married bin Laden before the Sept. 11 attacks.

After that, the family "scattered" and she traveled to Karachi in Pakistan. She later met up with bin Laden in Peshawar and then moved to the Swat Valley, where they lived in two houses. They moved one more time before settling in Abbottabad in 2005.

According to the report, al-Sada said that two of her children were born in government hospitals, but that she stayed only "two or three hours" in the clinics on both occasions. The charge sheet against the three women says that they gave officials fake identities.

During the manhunt for bin Laden, most U.S. and Pakistani officials said that bin Laden was likely living somewhere along the remote Afghanistan-Pakistan border, possibly in a cave.

The fact he was living in populated parts of Pakistan raised suspicions elements in the Pakistani security forces may have been hiding him. U.S. officials have said they have found no evidence this was the case.

Afghan suspect attorney: US gov 'hiding evidence'

Afghan suspect attorney: US gov 'hiding evidence'

AP Photo
FILE - In this Aug. 23, 2011 file Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System photo, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, 1st platoon sergeant, Blackhorse Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division participates in an exercise at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. The attorney for Bales says the U.S. government is “hiding evidence” from the defense team. John Henry Browne told The Associated Press Friday that members of the defense team in Afghanistan were told they would have access to witnesses at a hospital, but later discovered the people had been released.

SEATTLE (AP) -- The attorney for the U.S. soldier accused of killing 17 Afghan civilians says the government is "hiding evidence" and not giving his defense team the cooperation they were promised.

The Army says officials have been following procedures and communicating with Staff Sgt. Robert Bales' defense team.

The disagreement over access to the evidence and help in getting interviews with witnesses in Afghanistan highlights the differences between military and civilian proceedings.

For one, military legal procedures don't require prosecutors to turn over certain information to the defense until several weeks before a preliminary hearing. And at this point, Bales' attorney, John Henry Browne, said there is no judge to complain to, as he would in a civilian trial.

"It's outrageous. What they are basically doing is hiding evidence," said Browne, adding that he now questions the strength of the military evidence since prosecutors are not sharing it.

"We'll see if they can prove their case," he said.

Dan Conway, a military attorney who represented one of four Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldiers convicted in the deliberate killings of three Afghan civilians in 2010, said the government doesn't appear to be doing anything wrong at this point.

Conway said prosecutors have little obligation to turn over evidence or help coordinate interviews.

"This is just going to be an uphill battle," he said.

Maj. Chris Ophardt, an Army spokesman, said in a statement that the prosecution will provide Bales' defense with evidence in accordance with court martial and military rules of evidence. Within these guidelines, Ophardt said, "the prosecution is and has been communicating with the defense."

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, after speaking to hundreds of Marines and sailors aboard the USS Peleliu off the San Diego coast, told reporters that he has made it clear that Bales should get "whatever information he would be entitled to under the military code of justice."

Bales is charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. The military says he left his base in southern Afghanistan and went on a nighttime shooting rampage through two villages on March 11. Nine of the dead were children.

Browne said military prosecutors have gone back on their word. "Normally, we have cooperation with prosecutors and we get information. And in this case, they actually promised us if we sent people to Afghanistan ... that they would cooperate," he said.

The defense team said in a statement that its members attempted to interview injured civilians being treated at a hospital in Kandahar, but were denied access and told to coordinate with prosecutors.

The prosecution team interviewed the civilians, but the defense team said they were unable to after the people were released and no contact information was provided for them. The defense team said prosecutors are withholding information "while potential witnesses scatter."

Browne's team also said they have been denied access to the civilians' medical records, as well as video allegedly taken from a surveillance blimp showing Bales on the night of the killings.

Browne said being given access to information later won't work, especially with Afghan witnesses.

The defense will have a right to interview witnesses that could be called at trial, so the Army could then take the defense team into the villages with security or coordinate to have them come onto the military base.

But Conway said the challenges of interviewing witnesses now means the defense team may not be able to track down people to bolster their case - such as witnesses unable to identify Bales or those who believe there were two shooters.

"If they want to talk to those witnesses, they're going to have to get an investigator and probably go to the village and talk to civilians themselves," Conway said.

Browne also said the military is planning to within the next two months conduct a comprehensive mental health evaluation of Bales at the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where he is being held.

He said the mental health evaluation would delay the preliminary legal hearing. He said at this point his team hasn't decided the defense strategy, such as mental issues or post-traumatic stress.

"Until we're convinced that the government has a case, we're not going to speculate what our defense would be," he said.

Old photos may be deceptive in Fla. shooting case

Old photos may be deceptive in Fla. shooting case

AP Photo
This photo combo shows George Zimmerman. At left is a 2005 booking photo provided by the Orange County Jail via The Miami Herald, and at right is an undated but recent photo of Zimmerman taken from the Orlando Sentinel's website showing Zimmerman, according to the paper. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer in the town of Sanford, Fla., told police he shot unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26. The photo of Zimmerman at right is a sharp contrast from the widely used 2005 booking photo from an arrest in Miami Dade County.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- When he was shot, Trayvon Martin was not the baby-faced boy in the photo that has been on front pages across the country. And George Zimmerman wasn't the beefy-looking figure in the widely published mugshot.

Both photos are a few years old and no longer entirely accurate. Yet they may have helped shape initial public perceptions of the deadly shooting.

"When you have such a lopsided visual comparison, it just stands to reason that people would rush to judgment," said Kenny Irby, who teaches visual journalism at the Poynter Institute, a journalism think tank in St. Petersburg, Fla.

The most widely seen picture of Martin, released by his family, was evidently taken a few years ago and shows a smiling, round-cheeked youngster in a red T-shirt. But at his death, Martin was 17 years old, around 6 feet tall and, according to his family's attorney, about 140 pounds.

Zimmerman, 28, is best known from a 7-year-old booking photo of an apparently heavyset figure with an imposing stare, pierced ear and facial hair, the orange collar of his jail uniform visible. The picture, released by police following the deadly shooting, was taken after Zimmerman's 2005 arrest on an assault-on-an-officer charge that was eventually dropped.

In a police video made public this week of Zimmerman being brought in for questioning a half-hour after the shooting, the 5-foot-9 man appears much slimmer.

In a case that has caused a nationwide furor over race and the laws of self-defense, Martin was shot to death by Zimmerman in the city of Sanford on Feb. 26 as the unarmed black teenager was walking back from a convenience store.

Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer whose father is white and whose mother is Hispanic, has claimed self-defense, saying he opened fire after Martin punched him in the face, knocked him to the ground and began slamming his head on the sidewalk.

Black leaders and others are demanding Zimmerman's arrest on murder or manslaughter charges, but state and federal authorities are still investigating.

Betsi Grabe, a professor at Indiana University-Bloomington who has studied the effect of news images on public opinion, said photos that gain the most traction play into the desires of both journalists and the public for a story with a distinct victim and aggressor.

"At the center of most stories we tell in our society, cross-culturally and across the centuries, is the struggle between good and evil," she said. "If the ingredients are there, that is what journalists will grab onto and present."

Grabe said it is natural to present the most innocent-looking image of the person believed to be the victim, and the most menacing one of the suspect.

A more complex portrait of the two figures has emerged since then. A photo of a beaming Zimmerman looking sharp in a jacket and tie has come out, along with a more recent picture of Martin, with gold teeth and a white sleeveless undershirt. At the same time, it was learned that Martin had been suspended from school for marijuana residue in his backpack.

"Everyone's views seem to be gyrating back and forth with each new scrap of evidence that comes out," said David O. Markus, a prominent Miami defense attorney. "This is why we have courts and juries, and why the process is slow. No one should rush to judgment."

Gordon Coonfield, a communications professor at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, said the early perceptions of Zimmerman as a vigilante may ultimately have no bearing on the case.

He cited the case of Rodney King, the black motorist beaten two decades ago by white Los Angeles police officers in an episode captured on video. The officers were acquitted in state court, though two were later found guilty on federal charges.

"I think the nation felt quite certain it saw the truth of what happened to Rodney King, and the DA tried the case as if the images spoke for themselves," Coonfield said. "Yet the state criminal court decided the images were not self-evidently true. The defense won by offering a more convincing explanation of the images, focusing on what could not be seen - officers' motives, reasoning, and judgment."

Obama could face election-year jam on gay marriage

Obama could face election-year jam on gay marriage

AP Photo
President Barack Obama speaks at a campaign fundraiser at the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vt., Friday, March, 30, 2012.

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) -- President Barack Obama could be caught in an election-year bind on gay marriage, wedged between the pressure of supporters who want him to back same-sex marriage and the political perils of igniting an explosive social issue in the midst of the campaign.

Interviews with gay rights advocates and people close to Obama's campaign suggest it is no longer a matter of if, but when the president publicly voices his support. But Obama backers are split over whether that will happen before the November elections.

Gay marriage is already a big issue in a handful of states that have it on their ballots in November, including Maine, where Obama was headlining two fundraisers Friday. The president also headlined fundraisers Friday in Vermont, one of six states, plus the District of Columbia, where gay marriage is legal.

But neither in Vermont nor in Maine did Obama touch on the issue during his public remarks.

Once an opponent of gay marriage, Obama declared in 2010 that his personal views on the subject were "evolving." He has gone no further in public since then.

People familiar with the Obama campaign's deliberations have tamped down expectations that the president might declare his support for gay marriage before the election. They say the campaign's internal conversations on the issue focus instead on how to energize gay and lesbian voters in spite of Obama's lack of clarity on the issue.

Public support for gay marriage is increasing in the U.S., including among the independent voters who are a key to general election success.

But regardless of whether Obama has made up his mind on the subject, it's not the topic his campaign wants to be talking about heading into an election expected to be decided largely on economic issues. As White House and campaign officials learned all too well during the controversy over birth control access earlier this year, stepping into social issues - even those with Democratic support - can quickly throw the president's message off course.

While Obama aides saw the contraception issue as an important appeal to women voters, there may be little election-year payoff for the president taking a stand on gay marriage.

Obama's record on gay rights issues, including the repeal of the military's ban on openly gay service members and an order for the Justice Department not to enforce a provision that defines marriage as between one man and one woman, has already solidified the overwhelming backing of gay rights supporters. Obama often highlights the end of the Clinton-era "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gay military service, a surefire applause line with his supporters.

"Change is the fact that for the first time in history you don't have to hide who you love in order to serve the country that you love," he told a campaign crowd at Southern Maine Community College. "We ended `don't ask, don't tell.'"

His Republican rivals, including GOP front-runner Mitt Romney, not only oppose gay marriage, but also some other legal protections for gays and lesbians.

As for Obama, "the gay rights community is now enthusiastically in his corner in terms of the re-election, so the pressure to deliver before the election is off," said Richard Socarides, a prominent gay rights advocate.

The risk in Obama publicly backing gay marriage before the election is that it could become a rallying cry for conservatives who have thus far been reluctant to get behind Romney.

Still, many Democrats and gay rights advocates believe Obama may end up being forced to take a position on the issue before November.

The most pressing effort comes from within Obama's own party. Several high-profile Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and more than 20 Senate Democrats, want support for gay marriage added to the party's election platform. The platform will be adopted at the Democratic National Convention in early September, where Obama will accept the presidential nomination.

So far, Obama advisers have sidestepped questions about whether he would support a gay marriage plank on the platform.

"We don't even have a platform committee yet, much less a platform," Obama senior adviser David Plouffe said in a television interview.

A person close to the Obama campaign said the president's re-election team is wary of the platform effort and prefers to let the president move on the issue at his own pace.

People familiar with the campaign's thinking requested anonymity in order to discuss internal strategy.

Gay rights advocates hope state ballot initiatives on gay marriage, like the one in Maine, could force Obama to weigh in, as he has on other state issues.

"He's going to be in a lot of situations like this where the issue becomes unavoidable," said Socarides, a former Clinton White House official. "Even though he might want to avoid this, I think he's going to come up right against it in so many situations in the next couple of months."

Obama's reluctance to embrace gay marriage has increasingly put him at odds with a majority of Americans. A Washington Post/ABC News poll this month found that 52 percent felt it should be legal for gay and lesbian couples to get married, while 43 percent said it should be illegal.

Support for gay marriage is highest among Democrats, with 64 percent supportive of the issue. Just over half of independents - 54 percent - back legalized gay marriage, according to the Post/ABC poll. Support among Republicans is the lowest, at 39 percent.

Gay rights advocates say those numbers - particularly the growing support among independents - suggest there would be little political risk for Obama in backing gay marriage. And they say taking a stand in an election year could help boost enthusiasm among gay voters and young people, two core Obama constituencies.

Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said the president's evolution on gay marriage will be personal, not political.

"The president and the president alone will come to a decision," LaBolt said.

Maine's state Legislature approved gay marriage in 2009, but voters rejected it 53 percent to 47 percent that November. Gay marriage supporters believe enough people have changed their minds that the outcome will be different this time around.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Hoopgurlz at Phila. Front Page News

Hoopgurlz at Phila. Front Page News

McDonald's All-American Game

Graves Ending

Tennessee recruit Bashaara Graves hits a foul shot with 0.3 seconds to go to give the East a one-point win at the McDonald's All-American Game.

Dicey ending at McDonald's game

CHICAGO -- Things got dicey late in the 2012 McDonald's All-American Girls' Game Wednesday night.

With 16.4 seconds remaining, Washington commit Katie Collier capped a furious West rally to bring the left-coasters to a 78-78 tie.

McDonald's All-American Game
a Baylor recruit, was named MVP after scoring 15 points and grabbing nine rebounds for the East.

And for a few seconds it appeared that the unofficial streak of the practice-scrimmage losers winning the big game was going to stretch to four straight years.

But with 0.3 seconds remaining, Collier was whistled for a foul that sent Bashaara Graves, a Tennessee recruit, to the free throw line. Graves made the first to give the East a 79-78 win.

"I was a little surprised they called it," Graves said. "It was pretty questionable."

Graves finished with seven points and 12 rebounds.

Collier had a game-high five blocks for the West, tying her with four others -- Sara Hammond (2011), Amber Henson (2011), Joslyn Tinkle (2009) and Amanda Thompson (2006) -- for third all-time. Alison Bales set the record with nine in the 2003 game.

Texas Express

No state rolled as deep into the 2012 McDonald's All-American game as did Texas. The Lone Star State was represented with four players -- Moriah Jefferson, Alexis Jones, Jordan Jones and Courtney Williams -- and Jefferson and the Joneses have played together during club ball for several years to boot.

"It was great being with all of them, my teammates, it was like a family," said Jefferson, a home-schooled UConn recruit. "Everywhere we go we're four or five deep."

Jefferson would only give herself and her fellow Texans a six or seven out of 10 for their performance, but the bonding and time together was immeasurable.

"We have so much chemistry," Jefferson said. "When we were all in the game at the same time we really jelled more."

Jefferson finished with 10 points and four rebounds; Alexis Jones, a Duke recruit, had nine points, three assists and three steals; Jordan Jones, who is heading to Texas A&M, scored three points and dished out three assists; and Courtney Williams, another Texas A&M recruit, chipped in five points and two assists.

Late to the Party

Jordan Adams was late to the McDonald's festivities this week, but she had a terrific excuse. She was with her Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) teammates winning a state title.

"It was hard to get a rhythm," said Adams, a USC recruit who finished without a point. "I missed some of my shots early and I couldn't get a rhythm, but I got couple of steals and made some nice passes."

She wasn't the only one late because of a championship game. Her Mater Dei teammate, Nirra Fields (UCLA), who finished with a game-high 20 points, was tardy too, as was Jefferson, who was in Missouri playing for a national home-school championship and also missed Sunday's visit to the Ronald McDonald House.

"You don't want to throw up a goose egg out there, but it happens to the best of us," Adams said. "You definitely don't want to go out and be a ball hog, though."

Commonwealth Files Response To Motion, Sandusky Trial Postponed 3 Weeks

Commonwealth Files Response To Motion, Sandusky Trial Postponed 3 Weeks

(Credit: Getty Images)

BELLEFONTE, Pa. (CBS) – The Commonwealth has now filed its response to Jerry Sandusky’s motion to dismiss child sex abuse charges against him, as the judge in the case postpones the start of the trial until early June.

Last week, Sandusky’s lawyer filed a motion claiming the alleged criminal acts are so lacking in specific dates, times and locations that his client cannot adequately prepare a defense to them or that there’s insufficient evidence.

For full story go to:

House approves Republican deficit-cutting plan

House approves Republican deficit-cutting plan

AP Photo
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio takes questions during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 29, 2012.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A divided House approved a $3.6 trillion Republican budget on Thursday recasting Medicare and imposing sweeping cuts in domestic programs, capping a battle that gave both political parties a campaign-season stage to spotlight their warring deficit-cutting priorities.

But the partisan divisions over the measure, which is dead on arrival in the Democratic-led Senate, also underscores how tough it will be for lawmakers to achieve the cooperation needed to contend with a tsunami of tax and spending decisions that will engulf Congress right after this fall's elections.

"This is very easy," Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, a bipartisan group that advocates debt reduction, said of House passage of a budget that will go no further in Congress. "When you get to the budget bomb at the end of the year, it's for real. You're going to actually have to pass something."

The fiscal plan the House passed Thursday by a near party-line 228-191 vote would reshape and squeeze savings out of Medicare and Medicaid, the federal health insurance programs for the elderly and poor. It would force deep cuts in a wide range of spending, including rail projects, research and Pell Grants for low-income college students.

It would block President Barack Obama's plans to raise taxes on couples earning above $250,000 a year. Instead, it would collapse the current six income tax rates into just two, with a top rate of 25 percent - well below the current 35 percent ceiling - while erasing tax deductions and other breaks that the GOP plan failed to specify.

Overall, the GOP budget would cut spending $5.3 trillion more deeply over the next decade than Obama would - out of more than $40 trillion that would be spent. It would cut taxes by $2 trillion more than the president's plan. That leaves Republicans seeking a hefty $3.3 trillion in deeper deficit reduction than Obama.

The measure immediately became grist for the presidential campaign.

"House Republicans today banded together to shower millionaires and billionaires with a massive tax cut paid for by ending Medicare as we know it and making extremely deep cuts to critical programs needed to create jobs and strengthen the middle class," White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a written statement.

At nearly the same time, GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney issued a statement of his own.

"The House budget and my own plan share the same path forward: pro-growth tax cuts, getting federal spending under control and strengthening entitlement programs for future generations," Romney said.

With such stark differences over what to do about huge federal budget shortfalls, it was easy to predict that the two parties would disagree vehemently over the House plan.

It was also easy for the two sides to remain divided because there is little practical consequence if Congress' budget is ignored or, like this year, if a final version is never approved. That's because the budget is a non-binding blueprint that legislators are supposed to follow as they work on spending and revenue bills later in the year, but don't really have to.

Come January, though, a series of potentially cataclysmic fiscal events will occur almost simultaneously that lawmakers and the new president will have to confront and agree to do something about, one way or another.

Tax cuts first approved under President George W. Bush will expire, imposing tax increases on virtually every working American. Billions of dollars in spending cuts to defense and domestic programs, triggered by the failure of Congress' debt-cutting super committee, will start taking effect unless legislators block them.

Right around that time, the government should hit its debt limit and need renewed borrowing authority to avoid a federal default. A new limit will be required from lawmakers who fought right to the brink in a similar battle last summer.

Congressional gridlock on spending bills, always a likelihood, may be threatening a federal shutdown. And a payroll tax cut, extra unemployment benefits and a host of temporary tax breaks for businesses will all be about to expire.

"You've got a budget just about to blow up. There's never been anything like this," Bixby said of the intersecting decisions that will have to be made.

Work on those problems could well start in a postelection session of Congress. Whether either party has more leverage than it does in today's stalemated Washington will depend on how the congressional and presidential elections are decided.

In one indication of the pressures that will face lawmakers seeking middle ground, a coalition of both parties' moderates offered a compromise budget this week that combined tax increases with spending cuts in an attempt to curb federal deficits. It lost resoundingly on Wednesday, garnering only 38 votes.

That measure's two leading sponsors, Reps. Steve LaTourette, R-Ohio, and Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., said in separate interviews that 100 or more lawmakers had told them they would support the bipartisan proposal or were leaning toward doing so.

But then came a flood of lobbying. Conservative groups like the anti-tax Americans for Tax Reform and the Club for Growth pushed Republicans to oppose the bipartisan plan, while the AFL-CIO, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, and other groups brought pressure from the left.

"A vote for Cooper-LaTourette is a vote for deep cuts in Social Security benefits, cuts in Medicare benefits and Medicaid" and tax breaks for the wealthy and for U.S. firms shipping jobs abroad, said a letter the AFL-CIO sent lawmakers.

"People are afraid of campaign money drying up, they're afraid of being attacked by ads on TV, they're afraid of losing goodwill, especially if they see you're not going to win," said Cooper, explaining the clout opposition groups had with lawmakers facing re-election this fall.

LaTourette said that after the bipartisan plan failed, he telephoned Erskine Bowles to apologize "for damaging his hard work." Bowles, a former White House chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, was a leader of Obama's bipartisan deficit-reduction commission along with former Wyoming GOP Sen. Alan Simpson. LaTourette and Cooper used the commission's debt-reduction plan as a model.

"I wasn't surprised that both the right and the left came at us," LaTourette said. "I was surprised at the ferocity of the attacks."

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

76ers Romp In 103-85 Win Over Cavaliers

76ers Romp In 103-85 Win Over Cavaliers

Jrue Holiday #11 of the Philadelphia 76ers dunks against the Cleveland Cavaliers on March 27, 2012 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (credit: Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jrue Holiday #11 of the Philadelphia 76ers dunks against the Cleveland Cavaliers on March 27, 2012 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jodie Meeks scored a career-high 31 points and Jrue Holiday had 19 to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to a 103-85 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night.

Evan Turner scored 12 points for the Sixers, who moved a half-game ahead of Boston and back into sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division. The Sixers have held the top spot in the Atlantic for all but a few days early in the season.

For full story go to:

Magic Johnson Group To Buy Dodgers For Record $2B

Magic Johnson Group To Buy Dodgers For Record $2B

NEW YORK (AP) — One Los Angeles institution is buying another.

A group that includes former Lakers star Magic Johnson and longtime baseball executive Stan Kasten agreed Tuesday night to buy the Dodgers from Frank McCourt for a record $2 billion.

The price would shatter the mark for a sports franchise. Stephen Ross paid $1.1 billion for the NFL’s Miami Dolphins in 2009, and in England, Malcolm Glazer and his family took over the Manchester United soccer club in 2005 in a deal then valued at $1.47 billion.

For full story go to:

Damaging Evidence Presented In Clergy Sex Abuse Trial

Damaging Evidence Presented In Clergy Sex Abuse Trial

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The prosecution in the clergy abuse case presented disturbing evidence Wednesday as it tries to make its case that defendant Monsignor William Lynn was part of a decades long conspiracy to protect predator priests while endangering children.

The priests from these old cases have not been charged.

A man testified he was targeted on the street. A priest in civilian clothes spotted him buying pornography as a teen in 1991, noted his Bishop Neumann High School jacket, and then tracked him down to the school, pulled him from class and then molested him.

For full story go to:

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

76ers Romp In 103-85 Win Over Cavaliers

76ers Romp In 103-85 Win Over Cavaliers

Jrue Holiday #11 of the Philadelphia 76ers dunks against the Cleveland Cavaliers on March 27, 2012 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (credit: Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images) Jrue Holiday #11 of the Philadelphia 76ers dunks against the Cleveland Cavaliers on March 27, 2012 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jodie Meeks scored a career-high 31 points and Jrue Holiday had 19 to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to a 103-85 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night.

Evan Turner scored 12 points for the Sixers, who moved a half-game ahead of Boston and back into sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division. The Sixers have held the top spot in the Atlantic for all but a few days early in the season.

For full story go to:

West Phila. Man Who Called 911 Charged With Murdering Female Acquaintance

West Phila. Man Who Called 911 Charged With Murdering Female Acquaintance

(Photo from Phila. PD)

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The West Philadelphia man who called 911 to report he had found a female friend dead in the hallway of her apartment building over the weekend is now charged in her murder.

Police say 22-year-old Brandon Timmons of West Columbia Avenue is charged with murder, weapons offenses, and abuse-of-corpse in the death of Valerie Angeline, 31.

For full story go to:

Montco Schoolteacher Charged With Having Sex With Former Student, 15

Montco Schoolteacher Charged With Having Sex With Former Student, 15

(Photo from Hatfield PD)

HATFIELD, Pa. (CBS) – A former private school teacher from Hatfield, Montgomery County, has been charged with engaging in sexual activity with a 15-year-old student from the school where she once taught.

Hatfield police say Nicole Jacques, 25, is charged with multiple counts of sexual assault and corruption of a minor for engaging in sexual activity with the boy, whom she met at the Calvary Baptist School in Lansdale, Pa.

For full story go to:

Trayvon Martin's parents go to Capitol Hill

Trayvon Martin's parents go to Capitol Hill

AP Photo
Trayvon Martin's parents, father, Tracy Martin, left, and mother Sybrina Fulton, attend a House Judiciary Committee briefing on racial profiling and hate crimes, Tuesday, March 27, 2012, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- In a packed forum on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, the parents of Trayvon Martin found support among members of Congress who turned the death of their 17-year-old's son into a rallying cry against racial profiling.

Martin's parents spoke briefly before a Democrats-only congressional panel as cameras clicked noisily in front of them. Many in the crowd, which filled the seats and lined the walls, strained to catch a glimpse of the parents whose son was shot and killed Feb. 26 in a Sanford, Fla. gated community.

"Trayvon was our son, but Trayvon is your son," Sybrina Fulton, Martin's mother, told the panel. "A lot of people can relate to our situation and it breaks their heart like it breaks our heart."

Martin's father, Tracy Martin, thanked "everyone who is holding the legacy of Trayvon."

"Trayvon is sadly missed and we will continue to fight for justice for him," said Tracy Martin, who wore a weary look.

During the two-hour forum, the lawmakers and witnesses openly criticized the police investigation of the shooting and the failure of police to arrest the admitted shooter, George Zimmerman. Those attending the hearing applauded the couple when Deborah Ramirez, a law professor at Northeastern University School of Law in Boston, praised the parents' "dignity and grace in the face of this tragedy" and said they were an "inspiration to all."

Zimmerman, 28, has said he acted in self-defense. Federal and state officials are investigating.

"It is very important that we have independent eyes on this situation," said Rep. Corrine Brown, a Democrat whose district includes Sanford. "I am hoping we take this as a teachable moment. I am looking forward to how the Justice Department handles their independent investigation."

At a news conference after the forum, Martin and Fulton renewed their calls for justice in their son's death. When asked whether he thought his son's death was a hate crime, Martin said: "Yes, I believe he was racially profiled." The family's attorney, Benjamin Crump, said racial profiling also was a factor in the way the police conducted their investigation.

Several members of Congress have called for the case to be investigated as a hate crime. Another attorney for the Martin family, Daryl D. Parks, has said that statements from Department of Justice officials in a meeting with Martin's parents make clear that getting hate crime charges is going to be a challenge.

Martin was black. Zimmerman's father is white and his mother is Hispanic.

Tuesday's session was not an official House Judiciary hearing, so no votes or formal action could occur. The committee's ranking Democrat, Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, said the meeting was intended to be a discussion of racial profiling, hate crime laws and Florida's Stand Your Ground law, which eliminated a person's duty to retreat when threatened with serious bodily harm or death.

But much of the discussion revolved around criticism of the police investigation, the failure to arrest Zimmerman, Zimmerman's actions, and reassurances to Martin's parents that "we got your back," as Rep. Andre Carson, D-Indiana, put it.

"We see so clearly a case of racial profiling," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-New York, who mentioned he is also dealing with the New York City police force's stop-and-frisk policies.

The parents drew many onlookers who lined a wall and waited for the meeting's end for a chance at a glimpse of the parents.

At a news conference following the forum, Fulton had to pause and fight back emotions before telling reporters she was looking to the congressional members for help. Asked about a a bounty issued by the Black Panthers for Zimmerman, Fulton said "we want this done peaceful. We want you to protest. We want you to rally. We want this done peaceful."

The Orlando Sentinel has reported that Zimmerman told police that he and Martin exchanged words before the teen punched him in the nose and began banging his head on the ground. He says he cried out for help. Martin's parents said their son made the pleas for help.

Witness accounts differ, and 911 recordings in which the voices are heard are not clear.

The parents' attorney, Ben Crump, said the negative reports that are being leaked about Martin are making Zimmerman look like the victim and Trayvon as the suspect.

Martin's parents initiated the campaign to draw national attention to their son's death with an online petition calling for Zimmerman's arrest. Their son's death quickly caught fire through social media and then drew national media focus. His parents have since attended rallies in Florida and appeared on national television shows.

Earlier Tuesday, House Speaker John Boehner said "clearly what happened is in fact a tragedy," but he steered clear of calling for Zimmerman's arrest as some lawmakers have done. "It's being investigated by state and federal officials, which I think is appropriate," said Boehner, R-Ohio.

Syria accepts peace plan but clashes continue

Syria accepts peace plan but clashes continue

AP Photo
In this image made from video, Syrian President Bashar Assad, second right, visits Baba Amr neighborhood in Homs, Syria, Tuesday, March 27, 2012. Assad visited Baba Amr, a former rebel stronghold in the key city of Homs that became a symbol of the uprising after a monthlong siege by government forces killed hundreds of people many of them civilians as troops pushed out rebel fighters. Homs has been one of the cities hardest hit by the government crackdown on the uprising that began last March.

QAA, Lebanon (AP) -- Syria accepted a cease-fire drawn up by U.N. envoy Kofi Annan on Tuesday, but the diplomatic breakthrough was swiftly overshadowed by intense clashes between government soldiers and rebels that sent bullets flying into Lebanon.

Opposition members accuse President Bashar Assad of agreeing to the plan to stall for time as his troops make a renewed push to kill off bastions of dissent. And the conflict just keeps getting deadlier: The U.N. said the death toll has grown to more than 9,000, a sobering assessment of a devastating year-old crackdown on the uprising that shows no sign of ending.

Annan's announcement that Syria had accepted his peace plan was met with deep skepticism.

"We are not sure if it's political maneuvering or a sincere act," said Louay Safi, a member of the opposition Syrian National Council. "We have no trust in the current regime. ... We have to see that they have stopped killing civilians."

Annan's plan calls for an immediate, two-hour halt in fighting every day to allow humanitarian access and medical evacuations. The plan also outlines a complete cease-fire, but that will take more time because Syria must first move troops and equipment out of cities and towns, government forces and the divided opposition must stop fighting, and a U.N.-supervised monitoring mission must be established.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Assad must now act.

"Given Assad's history of overpromising and under-delivering, that commitment must now be matched by immediate action," Clinton told reporters in Washington. "We will judge Assad's sincerity and seriousness by what he does, not by what he says. If he is ready to bring this dark chapter in Syria's history to a close, he could prove it by immediately ordering regime forces to stop firing and begin withdrawing from populated areas."

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Assad's decision was only a first step.

"We will continue to judge the Syrian regime by its practical actions, not by its often empty words," he said.

Annan, who is an envoy for the U.N. and the Arab League, has traveled to Russia and China to shore up support for his peace plan. Russia and China have twice shielded Assad from U.N. sanctions over his crackdown, saying the statements were unbalanced and blamed only the government. Syria is Moscow's last remaining ally in the Middle East and is a major customer for Russia's arms industry, but the Kremlin has recently shown impatience with Assad.

In Beijing on Tuesday, Annan said China has offered its "full support" for his mission.

In contrast, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad offered Assad unequivocal support.

"I'm very happy that Syrian authorities are managing the situation with confidence," the official Iranian news agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying. He echoed Assad's charge that rebels are acting out a Western conspiracy. "Americans want to dominate Syria, Lebanon, Iran and all other countries through the false slogan of defending the freedom of the (Syrian) people, and we must be alert toward their conspiracy," he said. Iran is one of Syria's last true allies.

Despite the high-level diplomacy, the situation on the ground remained as bloody as ever.

There were conflicting reports about whether Syrian troops physically crossed the border into Lebanon during heavy fighting near a rural area around the Lebanese village of Qaa.

Two Lebanese security officials told The Associated Press that only bullets whizzed across the frontier.

"There is no Syrian military presence on the Lebanese side of the border," a military official said, echoing an official denial on the state-run National News Agency, which also said there was no incursion.

But two witnesses in Qaa said they saw dozens of troops enter Lebanon, apparently chasing Syrian rebels. One witness said the Syrian troops burned several homes. Another man showed an AP reporter several high-caliber bullets that he said struck his home.

The witnesses asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter. An AP reporter at the scene could not verify that any houses were burned, however, as Lebanese soldiers had cordoned off the area. The border in the area is poorly demarcated, and residents cross into each country easily and frequently.

Crackles of gunfire from Syria were clearly heard, even hours after the firefights.

Any movement into Lebanese territory would escalate a conflict that already is spiraling toward civil war. There are concerns the violence could cause a broader conflagration by sucking in neighboring countries.

The Syrian uprising began in March 2011 with mostly peaceful protests as part of the Arab Spring. It turned increasingly militarized after the government unleashed tanks, snipers and troops with machine guns to break up protests - a development that many opposition members say forced them to take up arms. The government denies there is a popular uprising, saying the revolt is being driven by armed groups and others it calls terrorists.

On Tuesday, Assad visited the third-largest city of Homs and its battered neighborhood of Baba Amr, a former opposition stronghold that has become a symbol of the uprising, in what appeared to be a show of his control over even the most rebellious areas.

A monthlong siege by the government to drive rebel fighters out of Baba Amr killed hundreds of people - many of them civilians. Assad's forces overran the rebel-held district on March 1.

In video shown Syrian state TV, Assad appeared relaxed in a blue shirt and sports coat as he pledged that Baba Amr would return "better than it was before." He was greeted by residents who shouted, "We are with you until death!"

He met with soldiers and other supporters, shaking hands and embracing women who reached out to him.

The violent conflict has posed a serious challenge to Assad, but neither side has shown any sign of giving in. Assad still has a significant amount of support, particularly from religious minorities and others who feel they could be vulnerable if members of Syria's Sunni majority - which makes up the backbone of the opposition - take over the country.

Assad and his supporters have played on those fears, suggesting his ouster would spread chaos around the Middle East and leave the country in the hands of extremists.

The opposition, meanwhile, is riven by differences and failed to present a united front against Assad, adding to the chaos.

Opposition leaders met in Istanbul on Tuesday to try to resolve their differences and reassure international backers who are frustrated by the lack of cohesion.

A conference is scheduled for Sunday in Istanbul at which Turkey, the United States and their European and Arab partners will discuss ways to further isolate and pressure Assad, as well as measures to support the Syrian opposition. Some reports indicate that the debate among dozens of countries will include whether the opposition Syrian National Council and affiliated groups should be declared as the sole, legitimate representative of the Syrian people.

On Monday, a Turkish official indicated that a surge of Syrian refugees might compel Turkey, preferably with international backing, to establish a buffer zone on Syrian soil to guarantee the security of its own southern border as well as the welfare of civilians fleeing violence. Turkish officials have long been hesitant to create such a zone.

Establishing a buffer zone on the grounds of Turkish national security would sidestep the gridlock in the U.N. Security Council. But the move would likely lack international consensus, raise questions about Syria's territorial integrity and highlight a year of failed diplomacy.

JetBlue captain: 'They're going to take us down!'

JetBlue captain: 'They're going to take us down!'

AP Photo
Emergency workers tend to a JetBlue captain that had a "medical situation" during a Las Vegas-bound flight from JFK International airport, Tuesday, March 27, 2012, in Amarillo, Texas. Passengers said the pilot screamed that Iraq or Afghanistan had planted a bomb on the flight, was locked out of the cockpit, and then tackled and restrained by passengers. The pilot who subsequently took command of the aircraft elected to land in Amarillo at about 10 a.m., JetBlue Airways said in a statement.

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Screaming "They're going to take us down!" a JetBlue pilot stormed through his plane rambling about a bomb and threats from Iraq Tuesday until passengers on the Las Vegas-bound flight tackled him to the ground just outside the cockpit, passengers said.

The captain of JetBlue Airways Flight 191 from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport was taken to a hospital after suffering a "medical situation" on board that forced the co-pilot to take over the plane and land it in Amarillo, Texas, the airline said.

The unidentified pilot seemed disoriented, jittery and constantly sipped water when he first marched through the cabin, then began to rant about threats linked to Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan after crew members tried to calm him down in the back, passengers said.

"They're going to take us down. They're taking us down. They're going to take us down. Say the Lord's prayer. Say the Lord's prayer," the captain screamed, according to passenger Tony Antolino.

Josh Redick, who was sitting near the middle of the plane, said the captain seemed "irate" and was "spouting off about Afghanistan and souls and al-Qaida."

The outburst came weeks after an American Airlines flight attendant was taken off a plane for rambling about 9/11 and her fears the plane would crash. An aviation expert remembered only two or three cases in 40 years where a pilot had become mentally incapacitated during a flight.

Gabriel Schonzeit, who was sitting in the third row, said the captain said there could be a bomb on board the flight.

"He started screaming about al-Qaida and possibly a bomb on the plane and Iraq and Iran and about how we were all going down," Schonzeit told the Amarillo Globe-News.

The captain was tackled by several passengers after he tried to re-enter the cockpit, which had been locked by the co-pilot, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement.

Antolino, a security executive who said he sat in the 10th row, said he and three others pinned down the captain as he ran for the cockpit door and sat on him for about 20 minutes until the plane landed at Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport at 10 a.m.

"A group of us just jumped up instinctually and grabbed him and put him to the ground," Antolino said after arriving in Las Vegas later Tuesday. "Clearly he had an emotional or mental type of breakdown."

An off-duty airline captain who was a passenger on the flight entered the flight deck before landing in Amarillo and took over the duties of the ill captain, the airline said in a statement.

The captain was taken to a local medical facility after the plane landed, the airline said without elaborating.

Shane Helton, 39, of Quinlan, Okla., said he saw emergency and security personnel coming on and off the plane as it sat on the tarmac in Amarillo.

"They pulled one guy out on a stretcher and put him in an ambulance," said Helton, who went to the airport with his fiancee to see one of her sons off as he joined the Navy.

Authorities interviewed each of the passengers once they had landed and left the plane, said 22-year-old passenger Grant Heppes, of New York City.

"I had no idea it was an employee until it really started happening," Heppes said. "I just assumed it was a passenger who flipped out."

The FBI was coordinating an investigation with the airport police, Amarillo police, the FAA and the Transportation Safety Administration, said agency spokeswoman Lydia Maese in Dallas. She declined to comment on arrests.

The flight left New York around 7 a.m. and was in the air for 3 1/2 hours before landing in Texas. The passengers boarded another plane for Las Vegas several hours later. That plane arrived in Las Vegas about two hours later.

John Cox, an aviation safety consultant and former airline pilot, said incidents in which pilots become mentally incapacitated during a flight are "pretty rare." He said he could only recall two or three other examples in the more than 40 years he has been following commercial aviation.

Airlines and the FAA strongly encourage pilots to assert themselves if they think safety is being jeopardized, even if it means contradicting a captain's orders, Cox said. Aviation safety experts have studied several cases where first officers deferred to more experienced captains with tragic results.

Unruly pilots and crew have disrupted flights in the past.

Earlier this month, an American Airlines flight attendant took over the public-address system on a flight bound for Chicago and spoke for 15 minutes about Sept. 11 and the safety of their plane, saying "I'm not responsible for this plane crashing," several passengers said.

Passengers wrestled the flight attendant into a seat while the plane was grounded at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport; the flight attendant was hospitalized.

In 2008, an Air Canada co-pilot was forcibly removed from a Toronto-to-London flight, restrained and sedated after having a mental breakdown on a flight. A flight attendant with flying experience helped the pilot safely make an emergency landing in Ireland, and none of the 146 passengers and nine crew members on board was injured.

In August 2010, JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater pulled the emergency chute on a flight from Pittsburgh after it landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport. He went on the public-address system, swore at a passenger, grabbed a beer and slid down the tarmac.

He was sentenced to probation, counseling and substance abuse treatment for attempted criminal mischief.

The FAA is likely to review the unidentified captain's medical certificate - essentially a seal of approval that the pilot is healthy. All pilots working for scheduled airlines must have a first-class medical certificate. The certificates must be renewed every six months to a year, depending on the pilot's age.

To receive the certificate, the pilot must receive a physical examination by an FAA-designated medical examiner that includes questions about pilot's psychological condition. Pilots are required to disclose all physical and psychological conditions and medications.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Sixers Fall To Spurs, 93-76

Sixers Fall To Spurs, 93-76

(credit: D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images)

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — For the third time in three nights, the San Antonio Spurs proved they know how to win short-handed.

Tony Parker scored 21 points and the Spurs, playing without Tim Duncan, beat the Philadelphia 76ers 93-76 on Sunday night.

DeJuan Blair added 19 points for the Spurs, who won for the seventh time in eight games and swept the season series with the 76ers. Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard had 11 points and 10 rebounds.

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Head Of Philadelphia-Area Catholic Schools To Step Down

Head Of Philadelphia-Area Catholic Schools To Step Down

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The superintendent of Catholic schools in the Philadelphia area will step down at the end of the academic year.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced Monday that Mary Rochford is leaving her post on June 30 to care for family members.

Rochford worked nearly 35 years as a Catholic school teacher and administrator before becoming superintendent in 2008.

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Fight claims, pot put Fla. teen's side on defense

Fight claims, pot put Fla. teen's side on defense

AP Photo
Trayvon Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton listens during a community forum on slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, 17, at the Macedonia Baptist Church in Eatonville, Fla., Monday, March 26, 2012. Students also held rallies on the campus of Florida A&M University in Tallahassee and outside the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center, where prosecutors are reviewing the case to determine if charges should be filed.

SANFORD, Fla. (AP) -- The family and supporters of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin found themselves on the defensive Monday following revelations he had been suspended for marijuana before he was shot to death by a neighborhood watch volunteer. Police also confirmed a report that the watchman claimed Martin was the aggressor, punching him in the nose and smacking his head on a sidewalk.

Martin, 17, was suspended by Miami-Dade County schools because traces of marijuana were found in a plastic baggie in his book bag, family spokesman Ryan Julison said. Martin was serving the suspension when he was shot Feb. 26 by George Zimmerman, who was patrolling the neighborhood that Martin was visiting with his father.

Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, and family attorneys blamed police for leaking the information about the marijuana and Zimmerman's claim about the attack to the news media in an effort to demonize the teenager.

"They killed my son and now they're trying to kill his reputation," Fulton told reporters.

The Sanford Police Department insisted there was no authorized release of the new information but acknowledged there may have been a leak. City Manager Norton Bonaparte Jr. said it would be investigated and the person responsible could be fired.

Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump said the link between the youth and marijuana should have no bearing on the probe into his shooting death. State and federal agencies are investigating, with a grand jury set to convene April 10.

"If he and his friends experimented with marijuana, that is completely irrelevant," Crump said. "What does it have to do with killing their son?"

The state Department of Juvenile Justice confirmed Monday that Martin does not have a juvenile offender record. The information came after a public records request by The Associated Press.

Zimmerman, 28, claimed he shot Martin in self-defense and has not been arrested. Because Martin was black and Zimmerman has a white father and Hispanic mother, the case has become a racial flashpoint that has civil rights leaders and others leading a series of protests in Sanford and around the country.

Meanwhile, the Orlando Sentinel reported that Zimmerman told police he lost Martin in the neighborhood he regularly patrolled and was walking back to his vehicle when the youth approached him from behind. The two exchanged words, Zimmerman said, and Martin then punched him in the nose, jumped on top of him and began banging his head on a sidewalk. Zimmerman said he began crying for help; Martin's family thinks it was their son who was crying out. Witness accounts differ and 911 tapes in which the voices are heard are not clear.

The Sanford police statement said the newspaper story was "consistent" with evidence turned over to prosecutors.

Earlier, city officials named a 23-year veteran of the Sanford police department as acting chief. The appointment of Capt. Darren Scott, who is African-American, came days after Chief Bill Lee, who is white, temporarily stepped down as the agency endured withering criticism over its handling of the case.

"I know each one of you - and everyone watching - would like to have a quick, positive resolution to this recent event," Scott told reporters. "However, I must say we have a system in place, a legal system. It may not be perfect but it's the only one we have. I urge everyone to let the system take its course."

The Sanford City Commission held its first meeting Monday since giving Lee a no confidence vote, which led to his ouster. Martin's parents both addressed the panel, urging them to take steps to arrest Zimmerman. More than 500 people crowded into the meeting, which was moved from City Hall to the Sanford Civil Center.

"We are asking for justice," said Tracy Martin, the teenager's father.

Civil rights leader Al Sharpton warned commissioners that Sanford risked becoming a 21st century version of civil rights struggle in the South during the 1960s.

Sharpton said Martin's parents endured "insults and lies" Monday over reports that their son attacked Zimmerman.

Outside the commission meeting, several thousand people carryied signs, rallied and marched in Martin's support. Organizers said some 2 million signatures had been collected on an online petition demanding Zimmerman's arrest.

"It seems like the police did not do the normal things they should have done. But that's going to have to take its own process now," said the Rev. Marilyn Beecher, a Methodist minister who came from Daytona Beach to attend the rally. "It's important that we all stand for justice and that the community leaders know that this is not going to be overlooked."

Also Monday, an attorney for Martin's mother confirmed that she filed trademark applications for two slogans containing her son's name: "Justice for Trayvon" and "I Am Trayvon." The applications said the trademarks could be used for such things as DVDs and CDs.

The trademark attorney, Kimra Major-Morris, said in an email that Fulton wants to protect intellectual property rights for "projects that will assist other families who experience similar tragedies."

Asked if Fulton had any profit motive, the attorney replied: "None."

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Police Searching For Missing Upper Darby Man With Down Syndrome

Police Searching For Missing Upper Darby Man With Down Syndrome

UPPER DARBY, Pa. (CBS) – Police in Upper Darby want the public’s help in finding a missing person.

Twenty-year-old Stephon Burgess, who has Down Syndrome, was reported missing at 7:45 Saturday Morning.

Authorities say he is a chronic runaway and often is found riding the SEPTA trolley and/or El lines.

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Court's health ruling could shake fall elections

Court's health ruling could shake fall elections

AP Photo
In this photo taken Oct. 8, 2012, the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court gather for a group portrait at the Supreme Court Building in Washington. The Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments on Monday morning, March 26, 2012, over President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, his Obama's signature domestic achievement. Seated from left to right are: Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Standing, from left are: Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, Associate Justice Samuel Alito Jr., and Associate Justice Elena Kagan.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court's ruling on the constitutionality of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul is likely to shake the presidential election race in early summer. But the winners in the court will not necessarily be the winners in the political arena.

No doubt, a decision to throw out the entire law would be a defeat for Obama. His judgment and leadership, even his reputation as a former constitutional law professor, would be called into question for pushing through a contentious and partisan health insurance overhaul only to see it declared unconstitutional by the court.

But it would not spell certain doom for his re-election. In fact, it would end the GOP argument that a Republican president must be elected to guarantee repeal of the law. It also could re-energize liberals, shift the spotlight onto insurance companies and reignite a debate about how to best provide health care.

If the court upholds the law, Obama would be vindicated legally. Republican constitutional criticisms would be undercut because five of the nine justices were nominated by Republican presidents.

But opposition would intensify in the political world. Without legal recourse, Republicans would gain new energy to argue that the only path to kill the law would be to elect a Republican president and enough GOP candidates to control the House and Senate. They might be wary of promising overnight repeal because a filibuster-proof Senate majority seems beyond their reach in the November election.

Central to the dispute over the law is a provision that requires individuals to have health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty. Polls show that this mandate is opposed by 3 of 5 Americans. Among Republicans, calls for its repeal are a surefire applause line.

Of the four federal appeals courts that have ruled, two upheld the law, one struck down only the insurance mandate and one punted, saying an obscure tax law makes it premature to decide the merits until the main coverage provisions take effect in 2014.

With the court hearing arguments Monday through Wednesday, operatives from both parties have been playing out the potential outcomes. It's a calculation complicated by the intensely polarized public attitudes toward the law, by the still unsettled race for the Republican nomination and, most important, by the range of potential decisions by the court.

"A lot of the arguments that are being made against it right now are that they violate basic constitutional rights and principles," said Tad Devine, a veteran consultant of Democratic presidential politics. "If the Supreme Court, controlled by Republicans, doesn't agree with that, I think it's going to be hard to make that argument."

"If they strike down the mandate," he added, "it takes away a lot of the attack against the president on that issue."

White House and Obama campaign officials would not publicly discuss the options ahead, worried they would be perceived as trying to influence the court. But the Obama campaign has begun to draw attention to the benefits of the law, hoping to counter the beating the law has taken from the GOP presidential candidates.

This past week, it posted a new health care app online where users can find out how the health care law affects them. It also launched a website that features testimonials about the law.

The campaign's Obama Twitter account drew attention Thursday to that "Faces of Change" website and to the law's second anniversary, a day after White House spokesman Jay Carney dismissed any observance of the bill's signing as something "that only those who toil inside the Beltway focus on."

On Friday, the White House released a report that promoted achievements such as coverage for young adults and omitted any mention of problems, including the little or no progress toward carrying out the law in many states. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement the law "gives hard working middle-class families the security they deserve."

Privately, many Democrats concede that repeal of the law would be represent a huge public relations problem for Obama, though one he could overcome if the court issues its opinion in June, as expected.

Republicans appear divided on the results.

Republican strategist Greg Mueller, who works on many conservative causes, said that if the law is upheld, the conservative base will be energized; if the law is declared unconstitutional, it will display Obama's overreach.

"I don't think there is a bad scenario for Republican candidates," he said.

Not all see it that way.

Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa said this past week an Obama victory would be more assured if the court strikes down the individual mandate, as King would like.

"I think then that there is more risk that President Obama will be re-elected because people will think they are protected from this egregious reach into our freedom," King said.

"If the Supreme Court finds it constitutional," he added, "then I believe Barack Obama will not be re-elected because they will understand that they have to vote him out of office to repeal it."

The public's broad respect for the Supreme Court as an institution is also a factor.

"I think a wide swath of the people will say `if the court says it's kosher, then it's kosher.' I think in many ways that will be the final word," said John Feehery, a former top Republican House leadership aide. "That doesn't mean the controversy is going to go away because this law is so massive and has so many parts that haven't been implemented yet, including the individual mandate."

The court's decision could affect the Republican presidential contest, too.

A court opinion in June would come at the tail end of the GOP primaries and ahead of the Republican National Convention.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania has elevated the health care law to his top campaign issue. He argues he would be best equipped to carry the repeal banner. Front-runner, Mitt Romney, as governor of Massachusetts, signed into law a health overhaul similar to Obama's, with an insurance requirement as part of it.

Romney has said he would seek to repeal the federal health care law, but has stood behind Massachusetts'. He argues these decisions should be left to states.

"Well, that's pretty compelling," Santorum countered sarcastically Wednesday at a rally near the shores of Louisiana's Lake Pontchartrain.

"Why would conservatives, Republicans, take the biggest issue in this race - freedom, and its impact on the economy, on your life, on your economic well-being, on your religious liberty - why would we take that issue and turn it around and give it to Barack Obama instead of using it like a sledge hammer?" he asked.

It's a case that Santorum pledges to take all the way to the floor of the convention, if he somehow manages to accomplish his long-shot goal of denying Romney enough delegates to win the nomination outright.

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