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Monday, April 30, 2012

Norristown Planting 2,000 New Trees With Help of Pa. Horticultural Society

Norristown Planting 2,000 New Trees With Help of Pa. Horticultural Society

(Montgomery County commissioner Leslie Richards, obscured, and borough councilwoman Linda Christian plant a tree in Norristown.  Credit: Brad Segall)

Montgomery County commissioner Leslie Richards, obscured, and borough councilwoman Linda Christian plant a tree in Norristown.

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (CBS) — The Borough of Norristown will be turning greener, thanks to 2,000 new trees that are being planted this season throughout the Montgomery County community.

The trees are springing up all over Norristown — in parks, outside schools, along streets and in front of other public properties.

The trees are designed to revitalize neighborhoods, improve air quality, and help manage storm water runoff, which is a problem that has plagued Norristown.

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Obama: Marking bin Laden death isn't 'celebration'

Obama: Marking bin Laden death isn't 'celebration'

AP Photo
FILE - In this April 25, 2012 file photo, President Barack Obama speaks at the University of Iowa, in Iowa City, Iowa. President Barack Obama gave a steely defense of his handling of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden a year ago, and his use of it as a campaign issue now. He is questioning whether rival Mitt Romney would have made the same decision in targeting the al-Qaida leader. Romney says he would.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama gave a steely defense of his handling of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and his use of it to burnish his re-election credentials a year later, saying Monday that it is appropriate to mark an anniversary that Republicans charge is being turned into a campaign bumper sticker.

He then jumped at the chance to portray presumed Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney as unprepared to make the kind of hard call required to send U.S. forces on that highly risky mission. Without mentioning Romney by name, Obama recommended looking at people's previous statements on the manhunt for the 9/11 mastermind.

Obama's re-election team has seized on a quote from Romney in 2007, when he said it was not worth moving heaven and earth to go after one person. On Monday, Romney said he "of course" would have ordered bin Laden killed, but his campaign criticized Obama for turning the successful death raid to political gain.

"I assume that people meant what they said when they said it," Obama said at a White House news conference. "That's been at least my practice. I said that I'd go after bin Laden if we had a clear shot at him, and I did. If there are others who have said one thing and now suggest they'd do something else, then I'd go ahead and let them explain it."

Obama is using the May 2 anniversary to help maximize a political narrative that portrays him as bold and decisive. Romney has sought to cast Obama as weak and too quick to compromise on other foreign policy matters, including Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Obama and his national security team will be featured in an NBC prime-time special Wednesday night that reconstructs the operation from inside the White House Situation Room. White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan discussed Obama's command of the raid on a Sunday talk show and in a speech Monday.

"The death of bin Laden was our most strategic blow yet against al-Qaida," Brennan said at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.

Credit goes to the special forces who carried out the raid and the intelligence experts who led them to the hideout, Brennan said, "and to President Obama, who gave the order to go in."

Bin Laden was killed in Pakistan by U.S. Navy SEALs. The terror leader was living in a compound outside the capital of Islamabad, having evaded capture for nearly 10 years.

Obama sent in the U.S. forces with no assurance that bin Laden was at the site, leading to a heart-pounding scene in the Situation Room that was captured in one of the most famous photos of Obama's presidency.

"It's unfortunate that President Obama would prefer to use what was a good day for all Americans as a cheap political ploy and an opportunity to distort Gov. Romney's strong policies on the war on terror," Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said Monday. "President Obama's feckless foreign policy has emboldened our adversaries, weakened our allies, and threatens to break faith with our military."

Romney was scheduled to appear Tuesday in New York City with firefighters and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani to help mark Wednesday's anniversary of bin Laden's death.

"I hardly think you've seen any excessive celebration taking place here," Obama said at the news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. His voice was taut and his smile thin.

"I think that people, the American people, rightly remember what we as a country accomplished in bringing to justice somebody who killed over 3,000 of our citizens."

In 2007, Romney told The Associated Press that it was not worth "moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person."

In a debate days later, he clarified the remark: "We'll move everything to get him. But I don't want to buy into the Democratic pitch that this is all about one person - Osama bin Laden - because after we get him, there's going to be another and another," Romney said.

Romney was critical of then-candidate Obama's vow to strike al-Qaida targets inside Pakistan if necessary. Obama said at the time that he would be willing to launch military strikes inside Pakistan with or without the government's approval.

Ultimately, that's exactly what Obama did to get bin Laden. The decision outraged Pakistan's U.S.-backed civilian government and fanned anti-U.S. sentiment across the country.

Romney and his advisers suggested Monday that the decision to order the raid was an easy one.

"Even Jimmy Carter would have given that order," Romney said Monday following a campaign appearance in New Hampshire.

Romney probably meant that as a jab at the Democratic record on foreign policy generally, but invoking Carter may actually cloud Romney's message.

Carter demonstrated how dangerous and politically perilous such decisions can be when he ordered an attempt to rescue American hostages held in Iran.

The 1980 mission ultimately embarrassed the nation, ending with the death of eight servicemen and the loss of several American helicopters. The hostage crisis lasted more than a year and helped deny Carter a second term.

If the bin Laden raid had gone similarly awry, Obama would have been badly damaged by a military debacle on top of the country's economic woes.

A spokeswoman for Carter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Running blind: China activist's dramatic escape

Running blind: China activist's dramatic escape

AP Photo
In this photo taken in late April, 2012, and released by Hu Jia, blind Chinese legal activist Chen Guangcheng, right, meets with Zeng Jinyan, the wife of human rights activist Hu Jia, at an undisclosed location in Beijing. Chen, an inspirational figure in China's rights movement, slipped away from his well-guarded rural village on April 22, 2012, and made it to a secret location in Beijing on Friday, April 27. Activists say Chen is under the protection of U.S. diplomats in Beijing.

BEIJING (AP) -- Chen Guangcheng's blindness was a help and a hindrance as he made his way past the security cordon ringing his farmhouse.

He knew the terrain - he had explored his village in rural China as a blind child and moved as easily in darkness as in daylight. He was alert for the sounds of people, cars and the river he would have to cross.

But he stumbled scores of times, arriving bloody at a meeting point with a fellow dissident - the first of an underground railroad of supporters who eventually escorted him to safety with U.S. diplomats.

A self-taught lawyer who angered authorities by exposing forced abortions, Chen is now presumed to be under U.S. protection, most likely in the fortress-like American Embassy in Beijing. Details of his improbable escape - making his way last week through fields and forest, then being chased by security agents in Beijing - are emerging in accounts from the activists who helped him.

Chen and his family had been harassed and kept under house arrest since the summer of 2005, except for a four-year period when Chen was jailed on charges of disrupting traffic and restrictions were eased on his wife and daughter. The couple's young son lives with his mother's sister.

After Chen's release in September 2010, the family was again placed under house arrest, their movements severely restricted, with even 6-year-old daughter Kesi subjected to searches when she came home from school. Chen and his wife, Yuan Weijing, were beaten several times.

The 41-year-old activist hatched his escape plan months ago with a simple idea - he would just lie still, said Bob Fu, founder of the Texas-based rights group ChinaAid and one of a handful of people to speak to Chen since he fled his village.

For weeks on end, Chen stayed in bed, saying he was too feeble to rise.

In fact, Chen wasn't well; his stomach was bothering him as it had for years. But he exaggerated his condition to lull the guards into a sense of complacency.

The ruse worked. The guards didn't look in on him constantly, assuming he was still bedridden, and when he escaped under cover of darkness, it took three days for them to notice.

"He did a darn good job. ... He prepared for months, at least two months," Fu said. "He didn't really move much, just laying in bed and making the impression that he couldn't move."

The night was cool with just a sliver of crescent moon in the sky on April 22 when Chen slipped out of his farmhouse in eastern China's Shandong province. Blinded by fever as a child, Chen grew up exploring the nearby cornfields and dirt paths sightless, so he had his bearings.

It wasn't the first time he had run away from Dongshigu village and his bitter, nearly decade-long feud with local officials.

In 2005, Chen, his wife and a friend made a dash out of the village, running through a cornfield to evade guards. He and his friend got all the way to Beijing, where they met with diplomats and journalists, but his wife was captured. Days later, Chen was seized by security guards on the streets of the capital and returned to house arrest.

On that brief escape he had been helped by his sighted friend; this time Chen was alone.

He followed a path to a field and from there took a road he knew would lead him to a narrow river. After crossing it, he entered a wooded area that gave way to less familiar territory, ground that continually tripped him up. He fell at least 200 times, he would tell his supporters.

He walked for hours, trying to put as much distance between himself and his heavily guarded home as possible before daring to slip a battery into his mobile phone and call He Peirong, a Nanjing-based English teacher-turned-activist who had promised to help. She was waiting with a car.

When she finally found him, Chen was wet, covered in mud and blood, and had numerous cuts and bruises.

"He was in very unbelievable shape when he was picked up," said Fu, citing a conversation with He. Chen "was trembling, was physically weak. ... But he was determined to escape from that miserable condition."

Fu said Chen took a few days to recuperate before making a video appeal.

Uploaded to YouTube and five days after Chen's escape, it showed the blind activist wearing a Nike wind breaker and his trademark black sunglasses, looking relaxed and sounding strong. In it, he pleaded with Premier Wen Jiabao to punish the local authorities who had subjected Chen and his family to 20 months of house arrest, repeatedly beating them.

It was apparently taped in Beijing after He drove Chen north and handed him off to another activist, who brought him to the capital.

He herself was detained Friday by police. Hours before, she told The Associated Press she had been in contact with Chen's relatives, who told her that when the local village chief discovered Chen was gone, "he was furious."

They beat Chen's wife, his brother and his adult nephew, she said.

In Beijing, Chen was mainly aided by Guo Yushan, founder of a think tank set up in 2007 in the capital's university district.

He also met with prominent activists Hu Jia and Zeng Jinyan, posing for smiling snapshots with the couple - pictures they later posted to Twitter. They discussed Chen's plan, saying he wanted "justice and freedom," and insisted he had no intention of leaving China.

Zeng said he seemed thinner and his hair was grayer than she remembered it, but that he was full of conviction.

"He was very certain and very clear," Zeng said. "He wants justice for his case and his family and he doesn't want to go abroad, doesn't want exile."

Despite his desire to stay in China, Fu now says China and the U.S. are close to a deal that would see Chen and his family given asylum in the United States. It could be announced within days, he said Monday.

Several others besides Guo helped Chen in Beijing, but Zeng and Fu declined to name them for fear they would be rounded up by security agents.

He, the former school teacher, has not been heard from since her detention Friday; Guo was detained and released but did not respond to a request for an interview. Colleagues said it wasn't "convenient" for him to talk, suggesting he is under pressure from authorities to stay silent.

Zeng and her husband also were questioned, with Hu spending 24 hours in custody.

The only tidbit Fu dared to offer about Chen's experience in Beijing was that he was involved in a car chase by security officials while being driven by a fellow dissident. But the agents were after the driver and didn't even know Chen was in the car.

"If they had known Chen was there, they probably would have shut down all of Beijing's traffic," Fu said.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Brian Dawkins Connects With His Many Fans

Brian Dawkins Connects With His Many Fans

Philadelphia (CBS)—Every Eagles’ fan has met Brian Dawkins in person, it seems. They all have personal stories relating to meeting B-Dawk halfway across the country at some amusement park, leaning up against a wall waiting for his family. Or in line at a restaurant, and recognizing that wide, bright smile. Or leisurely walking through a local mall, and catching a glimpse of the genial star and his children walking by.

These stories all have the same ending, too.

For full story go to:

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Sixers Fall To The Bulls, 103-91

Sixers Fall To The Bulls, 103-91

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28: Omer Asik #3 of the Chicago Bulls tries for position against Elton Brand #42 of the Philadelphia 76ers in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NBA Playoffs on April 28, 2012 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2012 NBAE (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

CHICAGO, IL – APRIL 28: Omer Asik #3 of the Chicago Bulls tries for position against Elton Brand #42 of the Philadelphia 76ers in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NBA Playoffs on April 28, 2012 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

CHICAGO (AP) — Derrick Rose scored 23 points before being helped off the court late in the game with an injured left knee, casting a major cloud over the Chicago Bulls’ 103-91 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in Saturday’s playoff opener.

Rose crumbled to the ground after he drove the lane. He was going for a layup when he came to a jump-stop and seemed to change his mind, passing off to a teammate before an awkward landing.

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House OKs student loan bill, ignores veto threat

House OKs student loan bill, ignores veto threat

AP Photo
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif. gestures during her weekly a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, April 26, 2012.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republicans defied a veto threat and the House voted Friday to prevent federal loan costs from doubling for millions of college students.

The vote gave the GOP a momentary election-year triumph on a bill that has become enmeshed in partisan battles over the economy, women's issues and President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.

The measure's 215-195 passage was largely symbolic because the package is going nowhere in the Democratic-dominated Senate. Both parties agree students' interest costs should not rise, but they are clashing along a familiar fault line over how to cover the $6 billion tab: Republicans want spending cuts and Democrats want higher revenues.

Friday's vote underscored how with Election Day just over six months away, much of Congress' work and passion can be aimed as much at political positioning as it is at writing law. Both parties want to show they are trying to help college students and their families cope in today's unforgiving economy and, when possible, force their opponents to cast votes that might create fodder for TV attack ads.

The GOP bill would keep interest rates for subsidized Stafford loans at 3.4 percent for another year, rather than automatically growing to 6.8 percent on July 1 as they would under a law enacted five years ago by a Democratic Congress. The increase would affect 7.4 million students and, the Obama administration says, cost each an average $1,000 over the life of their loans.

Democrats trained their fire on the Republican plan to pay for the bill by abolishing a preventive health fund created by Obama's 2010 revamping of the health care system. Democrats said that program especially helped women by allocating money for cancer screening and other initiatives and that eliminating it was only the latest GOP blow against women - a charge Republicans hotly contested.

"Give me a break," roared House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to rousing cheers from Republican lawmakers. "This is the latest plank in the so-called war on women, entirely created by my colleagues across the aisle for political gain."

Democrats voted solidly earlier this year to take money from the preventive health fund to help keep doctors' Medicare reimbursements from dropping. Obama's own budget in February proposed cutting $4 billion from the same fund to pay for some of his priorities.

Since the early days of this year's GOP presidential contest, Democrats have been accusing Republicans of targeting women by advocating curbs on contraceptives and other policies. Polls show women leaning heavily toward Obama and Democrats would like to stoke that margin.

In its veto message, the White House argued that "women in particular" would be helped by the prevention fund and added, "This is a politically motivated proposal and not the serious response that the problem facing America's college students deserves."

House GOP leaders abruptly scheduled Friday's vote after Obama barnstormed around the country in recent days to accuse them of ignoring students' needs. Presumptive GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney began the week by saying he, too, wanted current interest rates extended temporarily, heaping further pressure on congressional Republicans to act.

Democrats said Republicans only staged Friday's vote to remove it as an issue on which they would be vulnerable. They noted this months' lock-step GOP vote for a 2013 federal budget that would have let Stafford interest rates double in July, and said Republicans had done little in Congress on the issue until this week.

"They're just looking for a way to cover their rear ends," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.

Republicans said they were working methodically on the problem and accused Democrats of inventing a controversy to stir up their voters.

"People want to politicize this because it is an election year. But my God, do we have to fight about everything?" said Boehner.

Democrats broke 165-13 against the bill, with some of their members reluctant to vote against keeping students' costs down, despite the accompanying health care cuts.

Democrats wrote a version of the bill, paid for by ending subsidies for oil and gas companies. It never had a chance of moving through the GOP-led House.

Senate Democrats plan a vote next month on their own legislation extending today's interest rates for a year and paid for by making it harder for high-earning owners of many privately owned corporations to shield some of their income from Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes. That vote will also be little more than political posturing because Senate Republicans are certain to derail the measure.

House Republicans prevailed Friday only after staunching a brewing rebellion among their own conservatives, many of whom are skeptical about whether the government should subsidize student loans at all.

A lobbying campaign by outside conservative groups like Club for Growth and Heritage Action for America pressured GOP lawmakers to vote "no." But an 11th-hour effort by GOP leaders to keep their rank-and-file onboard prevailed and Republicans ended up backing the legislation 202-30 - with half the opposition coming from the feisty, largely conservative GOP class of freshmen.

"The government doesn't belong in that business," said Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.

Blind lawyer's escape to overshadow US-China talks

Blind lawyer's escape to overshadow US-China talks

AP Photo
In this photo taken in late April, 2012, and provided by Hu Jia, blind Chinese legal activist Chen Guangcheng, left, meets with Hu at an undisclosed location. Chen, an inspirational figure in China's rights movement, slipped away from his well-guarded rural village on Sunday night, April 22, 2012, and made it to a secret location in Beijing on Friday, April 27, setting off a frantic police search for him and those who helped him, activists said.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Less than a week before annual U.S.-Chinese diplomatic and economic talks, relations between the powers risked sharply deteriorating Saturday with an escaped Chinese activist reportedly under American protection and a U.S. fighter jet sale to Taiwan now being considered.

Fellow activists say Chen Guangcheng, a blind lawyer who exposed forced abortions and sterilizations as part of China's one-child policy, fled house arrest a week ago and has sought protection at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

Neither the U.S. nor Chinese government has confirmed the reports, but the saga looks set to overshadow this coming week's Strategic and Economic Dialogue in the Chinese capital. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner are leading the U.S. side at the talks beginning Thursday.

A potential further complication is a letter from the White House director of legislative affairs, Rob Nabors, to Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, explaining that the Obama administration would consider selling new U.S. warplanes to Taiwan. A sale would infuriate China, which considers the island nation an integral part of its state even after their split more than six decades ago.

Chen's status and the fighter jets represent the latest strains in Washington and Beijing's up-and-down relationship in recent years. President Barack Obama has sought to "pivot" American military might and diplomatic energy toward Asia to improve America's standing in the region and check the expansion of Chinese power, and achieved mixed results.

The two issues underscore the fundamental disconnect between the world's No. 1 and No. 2 economies, the top importer and exporter, and the biggest military and the fastest developing, on issues from human rights and Taiwan to currency policy and combating nuclear-armed North Korea and potentially nuclear-armed Iran.

A Texas-based activist group that has been active in promoting Chen's case said China and the U.S. were discussing the fate of the 40-year-old.

"Chen is under U.S. protection and high-level talks are currently under way between U.S. and Chinese officials regarding Chen's status," said a statement from the ChinaAid Association. It cited a source close to the situation.

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing declined comment. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said he had no information on Chen's case.

The case is so sensitive that officials in Washington have been ordered not to say anything about it at all. That was underscored on Friday and Saturday by the absolute refusal of the White House to speak out on the matter and the State Department pretending that nothing unusual was afoot.

After making several public appeals this year for Chen's release, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland would say only that "we have spoken out about his case in the past."

"We have always had concerns about this case," she said Friday, adding: "I don't have anything current on this issue today."

The top U.S. diplomat for Asia, Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, originally was due in Beijing in the coming week, but he arrived early Sunday in the capital and did not speak to reporters. Earlier, department officials in Washington had ignored or declined to respond to questions about indications that Campbell had been dispatched earlier than planned ahead of the talks to smooth things over with the Chinese.

ChinaAid's founder, Bob Fu, said Chen's case was a benchmark for the United States and its human rights image around the world.

In February, a former regional chief of police, Wang Lijun, visited a U.S. consulate to raise concerns about the murder of a British businessman and possible links to powerful Chinese politician Bo Xilai. Wang expressed interest in seeking asylum with the U.S., but was turned away, raising eyebrows among Republican lawmakers in the United States.

Chen's case has become an embarrassment for Beijing. Fu and Chinese-based activists say he slipped away from his intensely guarded home on the night of April 22. His wife and 6-year-old daughter are still there.

Chen recorded a video as a direct address to Premier Wen Jiabao, condemning the treatment of him and his family and accusing local Communist Party officials by name. Activists sent the video Friday to the overseas Chinese news site, which posted part of it on YouTube.

If Chen is in the U.S. Embassy or with U.S. officials at another location, it is not known how he would be able to leave or where he could go without Chinese permission. There was no extra security outside the U.S. Embassy in Beijing on Saturday.

In 1989, Fang Lizhi, whose speeches inspired student protesters throughout the 1980s, fled with his wife to the U.S. Embassy after China's military crackdown on the pro-democracy movement. He was forced to stay there for 13 months before China eventually let the couple leave the country. Once China's leading astrophysicist, he died April 7 at age 76 in Tucson, Ariz., where in exile he was a physics professor at the University of Arizona.

Chen is widely admired by rights activists in China who last year publicized his case among ordinary Chinese and encouraged them to go to Dongshigu village and break the security cordon. Even Hollywood actor Christian Bale tried to visit, but was roughed up by locals paid to keep outsiders away

A self-taught lawyer blinded by fever in infancy, Chen served four years in prison for exposing forced abortions and sterilizations in his and surrounding villages. Since his release in September 2010, local officials confined him to his home. Amnesty International and other human rights groups say he was abused over the last 18 months.

But Washington will have to weigh its response at a time it is seeking China's help on many issues around the world, from trying to restrain North Korean and Iranian nuclear ambitions to forcing Syria's government into observing a cease-fire. There are also debates about currency and trade policy considered highly relevant to U.S. and global economic recovery.

Alongside Russia, China has brushed aside American pressure to raise the pressure on Syria despite repeated U.S. warnings that those in opposition will end up on the wrong side of history. China has shielded North Korea from tougher international action despite the reclusive communist government's continued nuclear activity and a series of provocations that nearly plunged the Korean peninsula into war two years ago.

The overtures have left Obama vulnerable to charges that he is being naive or too accommodating to China. Republican critics, including likely presidential nominee Mitt Romney, say the administration hasn't pressured China enough on issues vital to U.S. economic and strategic interests.

Since Obama took office, China's booming economy has driven global growth while the U.S. has struggled to emerge from its worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

Greater Chinese assertiveness has resulted in clashes with the U.S. over naval vessels in the Yellow Sea and American exporters trading with Taiwan; with Japan over fishing rights; and with Southeast Asian nations over claims to the resource-rich South China Sea.

But Washington has pushed back. To ease concerns posed by the threat of China-backed North Korea, the U.S. has strengthened military alliances with South Korea and Japan. By speaking out against China's maritime claims, it has improved ties with Southeast Asian nations fearful of an expansive and potentially belligerent Beijing.

U.S. relations with Vietnam and the Philippines in particular have benefited. Even reclusive Myanmar, long an international pariah protected by China's diplomatic sway, has initiated democratic and human rights reforms to improve its standing with the U.S. and the West. The U.S. also has led talks on a new regional trade pact that would exclude China.

With the Iraq war over and combat operations in Afghanistan ending over the next couple of years, Obama has recalibrated U.S. focus on Asia and its booming markets such as China, India and Indonesia. More than half of the world's population lives in Asia, which is seen as the future center of the world economy.

Previous rounds of the U.S.-China dialogue have been hailed as productive and have included new educational and scientific exchanges. But they haven't resolved points of contention over Taiwan, Tibet and human rights.

U.S. arms sales to Taiwan particularly rankle China, and the irritation could grow worse with the emergence of the White House letter.

China has 2,300 operational combat aircraft, against only 490 for Taiwan. In September, the U.S. turned down a Taiwanese request for 66 relatively advanced F-16 jet fighters, while agreeing to help Taiwan upgrade its existing F-16 fleet. Critics accused the White House of yielding to pressure from China.

China and Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949. Despite improving relations over the past four years, China still threatens to attack across the 100-mile-wide Taiwan Strait if the democratic island seeks to declare independence.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Sixers Vs. Bulls First Round NBA Playoff Schedule

Sixers Vs. Bulls First Round NBA Playoff Schedule

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

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The NBA has released the schedule for the Sixers first round playoff series against the Chicago Bulls.

Game 1: 4/28 Sixers @ Bulls 1pm EST

Game 2: 5/1 Sixers @ Bulls 8pm EST

Game 3: 5/4 Bulls @ Sixers 8pm EST

Game 4: 5/6 Bulls @ Sixers 1pm EST

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76ers Fall To Pistons In Regular Season Finale

76ers Fall To Pistons In Regular Season Finale

Rodney Stuckey #3 of the Detroit Pistons goes to the basket agaisnt the Philadelphia 76ers April 26, 2012 at The Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Michigan. (credit: Allen Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

Rodney Stuckey #3 of the Detroit Pistons goes to the basket agaisnt the Philadelphia 76ers April 26, 2012 at The Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Ben Gordon scored 26 points, including eight 3-pointers, to help the Detroit Pistons rout the short-handed Philadelphia 76ers 108-86 Thursday night in the season finale.

Philadelphia entered the game with a mathematical chance at the Eastern Conference’s seventh seed, but didn’t make much of an effort. Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams all sat out the game in order to rest for Saturday’s postseason opener against top-seeded Chicago.

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Mural Arts Symposium Focuses On Art’s Anti-Crime Role in Society

Mural Arts Symposium Focuses On Art’s Anti-Crime Role in Society

(John Wetzel, secretary of Pennsylvania's Department of Corrections, addresses the Arts and Criminal Justice Symposium at the center city campus of Temple University.   Credit: Cherri Gregg)

John Wetzel, secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections, addresses the Arts and Criminal Justice Symposium at the center city campus of Temple University.

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program held its 2012 “Arts and Criminal Justice Symposium” this afternoon in center city Philadelphia, part of its efforts to teach community groups how to use art to rehabilitate those both in and outside of the prison system.

“People should care, because crime is happening,” said Jane Golden, executive director of the Mural Arts Program. “And we want to be, at the end of the day, a safer city.”

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Bear wanders onto Colo. campus, moved to mountains

Bear wanders onto Colo. campus, moved to mountains

AP Photo
This Thursday, April 26, 2012 photo provided by the CU Independent shows a bear that wandered into the University of Colorado Boulder, Colo., dorm complex Williams Village falling from a tree after being tranquilized by Colorado wildlife officials. Colorado University police spokesman Ryan Huff said the bear was likely 1-3 years old and weighed somewhere between 150-200 pounds.

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) -- A 200-pound black bear that wandered onto the University of Colorado campus and caused a stir before falling 15-feet from a tree has returned to the wild, officials said Friday.

State wildlife official Jennifer Churchill said that the 200-poung male bear was tagged and taken to a remote Rocky Mountain area of ponderosa pines, with plenty of oak brush and chokeberry - food fit for a bear - west of Boulder.

The bear has become a celebrity since it wandered around a university residence hall in Boulder and climbed a tree Thursday. Wildlife officers eventually tranquilized it, and the bear dropped from its perch onto pads placed on the ground.

A photographer with the CU Independent online student newspaper captured a shot of the bear, its arms and legs akimbo, as it fell.

The bear landed on its back before a crowd of gawking students. Some stroked its paws after it was caged.

"It was really a perfect landing," campus police spokesman Ryan Huff told the Daily Camera ( ).

Rhonda Chestnutt was putting coins into a parking meter near the Bear Creek student apartments on Thursday when she felt shaggy fur brush against her legs.

Chestnutt, who works for a leadership program at the university, thought it was a large dog - until the bear looked back over its shoulder.

"It was like, `Excuse me, pardon me, coming through,'" Chestnutt told the Camera. "It was running full speed."

Churchill said bears emerge from winter hibernation in March and April and are scavenging for food.

Lawyers argue over sex tape at Edwards trial

Lawyers argue over sex tape at Edwards trial

AP Photo
FILE - In this April 12, 2012, file photo, former presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. John Edwards arrives outside federal court in Greensboro, N.C. Andrew Young retook the witness stand for a fourth straight day at Edwards’ criminal trial in a North Carolina courthouse over accused campaign finance violations on Thursday, April 26, 2012. The former aide was the first witness called by the prosecution and is key to making the government’s case that Edwards directed a scheme to use nearly $1 million in secret payments from two wealthy donors used to help hide his pregnant mistress as he campaigned for the White House in 2008. Edwards has pleaded not guilty to six criminal counts and faces up to 30 years behind bars if convicted.

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) -- Opposing lawyers in the John Edwards trial wrangled with a judge over whether to allow testimony about a sex tape of the former presidential candidate and allegations of an affair involving an ex-aide who ended a week on the witness stand Friday.

Edwards is accused of directing a conspiracy to use about $1 million in campaign donors' payments to help hide his pregnant mistress as he sought the White House in 2008. He denies knowing about the money and has pleaded not guilty.

Former aide and confidante Andrew Young testified this week that he deposited the payments from a wealthy Texas lawyer who served as Edwards' campaign finance chairman and an elderly heiress into personal accounts controlled by him and his wife. The money was used to help build a $1.5 million North Carolina home; Young, who is testifying under an immunity agreement, said he did not pay income taxes on the money.

Prosecutors objected Friday when a defense lawyer for Edwards asked Young whether he had threatened to release a "private video" to expose Edwards' affair with Rielle Hunter.

U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Eagles instructed Edwards lawyer Abbe Lowell to continue his cross-examination of Young without mentioning the tape.

After conferring with the judge, Lowell said he would wait to potentially discuss the tape when the defense presents its case.

Hunter sued Young in state court two years ago over ownership of the sex tape and other personal items in Young's possession. That civil suit was settled earlier this year with an agreement to destroy all copies of the tape, though there are suggestions in court documents that federal investigators may still have a copy.

Defense attorneys had no intention of showing the tape to the jury, but wanted to mention it in the context of the allegation that Young threatened to out Edwards' affair with Hunter in an August 2008 conversation on a dead-end road near Edwards' Chapel Hill estate.

Young was the first witness called by prosecutors and earlier this week testified about the conversation. Young had said Edwards was acting nervous and that "at one point I feared for my life," he testified Friday.

Confronted with copies of his amended tax returns for 2007 and 2008, Young acknowledged that he had used about $1 million of $1.2 million in the payments from Rachel "Bunny" Mellon and lawyer Fred Baron for himself.

Young also testified he didn't pay taxes on the money. In Young's 2010 tell-all book about the Edwards' scandal, he wrote that he considered the donors' payments to be "gifts," not taxable income.

The distinction is at the heart of the defense strategy that the secret payments were "gifts from friends" intended to hide Edwards' affair from his cancer-stricken wife, not campaign contributions intended to influence the outcome of the election.

Hunter is expected to testify later in the trial, also with an immunity agreement.

Young also acknowledged contacting three witnesses listed for the defense before the trial occurred, telling Lowell he had called two men and a woman.

Eagles told the defense it could mention Young had called the witnesses in opening statements, but barred Edwards' lawyers from characterizing the contact as "witness tampering" or mentioning that Young had had a "one-night stand" with one of the witnesses.

On Friday, Lowell asked Young what he had asked the woman when he called.

"It was for a personal issue, sir," Young replied.

Asked how the woman described her potential testimony, Young replied that she said she would tell the truth. That prompted Lowell to ask Young if he responded by telling her that the truth would "mess up everything."

Young said he couldn't recall whether he said that.

Young's wife, Cheri, took the stand late Friday and will return on Monday.

Lowell on Friday quoted a passage from Young's book, for which he was paid "hundreds of thousands of dollars" through publishing and movie deals.

Young wrote that he was concerned "anyone looking in from the outside would consider what I did and conclude that I must have been a cold-bloodied schemer who was motivated by ego or greed or the desire for power."

"Mr. Young, isn't that exactly what you are?" Lowell asked.

"No sir," Young replied.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Eagles To Trade Asante Samuel To Falcons For Draft Pick

Eagles To Trade Asante Samuel To Falcons For Draft Pick

(credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – “The Eagles are going to trade Asante Samuel,” is something we’ve heard rumored since they signed Nnamdi Asomugha before the 2011 season. It’s no longer a rumor.

After days (weeks, months, years?) of speculation, the Eagles have finally traded Samuel, 94WIP’s Howard Eskin has confirmed. In exchange, the Eagles will receive a 7th round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.. As part of the deal, Samuel is rumored to have restructured his contract and agreed to a three year, $18.5 million deal with Atlanta. The move will clear salary cap space, perhaps for a new contract for running back LeSean McCoy, or to give the Eagles the ability to trade up further in the first round.

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Turner Scores 29, 76ers Beat Bucks 90-85

Turner Scores 29, 76ers Beat Bucks 90-85

Lavoy Allen #50 of the Philadelphia 76ers passes against Larry Sanders #8 of the Milwaukee Bucks on April 25, 2012 at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (credit: Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

Lavoy Allen #50 of the Philadelphia 76ers passes against Larry Sanders #8 of the Milwaukee Bucks on April 25, 2012 at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Evan Turner scored a career-high 29 points and the Philadelphia 76ers got a win while resting some key players for the playoffs, beating the Milwaukee Bucks 90-85 on Wednesday night.

Jodie Meeks added 27 points for the 76ers, who eliminated the Bucks from playoff contention with their victory over New Jersey on Monday.

The 76ers rested Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young.

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48 SEPTA Workers Win $172.7 Million Powerball Jackpot Ticket Sold In Philadelphia

48 SEPTA Workers Win $172.7 Million Powerball Jackpot Ticket Sold In Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Forty-eight SEPTA employees are the winners of the $172.7 million Powerball jackpot ticket sold Wednesday at a newsstand in Philadelphia.

A spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Lottery says the winning ticket was sold at the Newsstand at the Gallery Mall at 9th and Market Streets.

For full story go to:

Claiming To Be A ”Victim,” Suspected Mayfair Tire Slasher Fails To Make Bail

Claiming To Be A ”Victim,” Suspected Mayfair Tire Slasher Fails To Make Bail

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The man charged with surreptitiously flattening dozens of tires in Northeast Philadelphia — even as he was claiming to be a victim and helping to organize a neighborhood watch for the “perpetrator” — was arraigned Thursday.

David Toledo, arrested Wednesday, failed to make bail today, which was set at $5,000 for each of the 54 counts against him ($270,000 total) — 49 counts of criminal mischief and five counts of lying to police. He would have to post 10 percent, or $27,000.

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Charles Taylor conviction sends warning to tyrants

Charles Taylor conviction sends warning to tyrants

AP Photo
Former Liberian President Charles Taylor looks down as he waits for the start of a hearing to deliver verdict in the court room of the Special Court for Sierra Leone in Leidschendam, near The Hague, Netherlands, Thursday April 26, 2012. Judges were expected to deliver landmark judgements in the trial against the former president who is charged with supporting notoriously brutal rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone.

LEIDSCHENDAM, Netherlands (AP) -- Former Liberian President Charles Taylor became the first head of state since World War II to be convicted by an international war crimes court, a historic verdict that sends a message that tyrants worldwide will be tracked down and brought to justice.

The warlord-turned-president was found guilty on Thursday of 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for arming Sierra Leone rebels in exchange for "blood diamonds" mined by slave laborers and smuggled across the border.

Judges at the Special Court for Sierra Leone said Taylor played a crucial role in allowing the rebels to continue a bloody rampage during that West African nation's 11-year civil war, which ended in 2002 with more than 50,000 dead. Ten years after the war ended, Sierra Leone is still struggling to rebuild.

The rebels gained international notoriety for hacking off the limbs of their victims and carving their groups' initials into opponents and even children they kidnapped, drugged and turned into killers. The rebels developed gruesome terms for the mutilations that became their chilling trademark: They would offer their victims the choice of "long sleeves" or "short sleeves" - having their hands hacked off or their arms sliced off above the elbow.

The 64-year-old Taylor will be sentenced next month after a separate hearing.

The court has no death penalty and no life sentence. Judges have given eight other rebels as much as 52 years in prison.

The verdict was hailed by prosecutors, victims and rights activists as a watershed moment in efforts to end impunity for leaders responsible for atrocities.

The ruling "permanently locks in and solidifies the idea that heads of state are now accountable for what they do to their own people," said David Crane, the former prosecutor who indicted Taylor in 2003 and is now a professor of international law at Syracuse University. "This is a bell that has been rung and clearly rings throughout the world. If you are a head of state and you are killing your own people, you could be next."

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hailed the judgment as "a significant milestone for international criminal justice" that "sends a strong signal to all leaders that they are and will be held accountable for their actions," said U.N. deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Taylor's prosecution "delivers a strong message to all perpetrators of atrocities, including those in the highest positions of power, that they will be held accountable."

Despite optimism over the verdict, international efforts to prosecute leaders have been spotty at best. Slobodan Milosevic died in his cell before a verdict could be reached on charges of fomenting the Balkan wars. Moammar Gadhafi was killed by rebels last year before he could be turned over for trial. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is openly defying attempts to arrest him on international genocide charges.

In one success story, prosecutors at the U.N.'s Yugoslav war crimes tribunal are close to wrapping up their case against former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic - although it took more than a decade to have him arrested.

The global implications meant little to survivors of the war in Sierra Leone who celebrated Taylor's conviction.

"I am happy that the truth has come out ... that Charles Taylor is fully and solely responsible for the crimes committed against the people of Sierra Leone," said Jusu Jarka, who had both his arms hacked off by rebels in 1999 and who now runs a support group for fellow amputees.

Crowds that gathered to watch the verdict live on television in the Sierra Leone capital, Freetown, sighed with relief when the conviction was announced. Some carried posters that exposed still-simmering anger. "Shame on you Charles Taylor. Give us your diamonds before going to prison," one read.

Prosecuting Taylor proved how hard it is to bring leaders to justice. He fled into exile in Nigeria after being indicted in 2003 and wasn't arrested for three years. And while the Sierra Leone court is based in that country's capital, Taylor's trial was staged in the Netherlands for fear it could destabilize the region.

There was no clear paper trail linking Taylor to rebels, and the three-judge panel wound up convicting him of aiding and abetting the fighters. He was cleared of direct command responsibility over the rebels.

In their verdict, reached after 13 months of deliberations, the judges said Taylor regularly received diamonds from rebels. But they made no mention of the most famous witness to testify about the gems - supermodel Naomi Campbell, who recalled being given a bag of "very small, dirty-looking stones" at a 1997 dinner at Nelson Mandela's official mansion in South Africa.

Taylor attended the dinner, and prosecutors had hoped Campbell would testify that he gave her the diamonds. But Campbell did not, and Taylor's lawyer, Courtenay Griffiths, dismissed the testimony on Thursday as "a large, fat zero."

Taylor, impeccably dressed as usual in suit and tie, said nothing in court and showed no emotion as the verdict was read.

There was emotion enough during the five-year trial as 91 prosecution witnesses outlined the horrors of Sierra Leone's war, many of them describing murders, mutilations, torture and acts of cannibalism by rebels and the children they turned into merciless killers.

Taylor insisted he was an innocent victim of neocolonialism and a political process aimed at preventing him from returning to power in Liberia. In seven months of testimony in his own defense, he cast himself as a peacemaker and statesman in West Africa.

Crane - a vocal supporter of efforts to hold leaders accountable - concedes that while war crimes tribunals are independent, they are hard to separate from geopolitical realities.

Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime is widely accused of atrocities as it battles to put down a popular revolt, and yet the prospect that he or any of his generals will be indicted anytime soon appears remote. Syria does not recognize the International Criminal Court, meaning prosecutors there cannot intervene unless the U.N. Security Council asks them to. Russia and China would likely veto any such move.

The ICC has indicted al-Bashir for genocide in Darfur, Sudan, but he has openly defied an international arrest warrant by flying to friendly nations and has recently cranked up war rhetoric in his country's border dispute with South Sudan.

Most likely the next former leader to face justice will be former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo, who is jailed in The Hague on charges of attacking political opponents as he attempted to cling to power following elections last year.

Edward Songo Conteh, of Sierra Leone's Amputee and War Wounded Association, was in court Thursday to watch the verdict. His only regret was that Taylor was not immediately sentenced.

"I want to see this man behind bars for the rest of his life," said Conteh, who had one of his hands hacked off by child soldiers.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hoopgurlz at Phila. Front Page News

Hoopgurlz at Phila. Front Page News

Kaela Davis

Flight Night

Kaela Davis scored 18 points to help the Tennessee Flight win the top division of the Boo Williams Nike Invitational for the first time.

Kaela Davis and the Tennessee Flight battled back from a 20-point deficit in the semifinal and then held on in the final to claim their first Boo Williams Nike Invitational title.

HAMPTON, Va. -- With a 20-point first-half deficit looming over Tennessee Flight coach Tom Insell, his voice so far gone that his usual barbs came in the form of high-pitched cracks, it's hard to believe the coach and his team had much hope of coming back against the Metros in the semifinals of the Boo Williams Nike Invitational gold bracket. But somehow Insell held on to hope.

"You're never out of a game in travel ball," Insell said after his team's 76-64 victory over the Philly Belles-Maryland in the Boo Williams Nike Invitational gold bracket championship game. "Ninety percent of teams give up if they get down 20, but the game is so fast-paced you just need to get a couple of rebounds or stops and get yourself going."

The Flight not only rallied to beat the Metros in the semifinals, but the team, which had its first practice on Wednesday before the tournament began on Friday afternoon, came out on fire against a Belles team that had the athletes to match up with the Flight players. And while the team was led in scoring by the 18 points from Kaela Davis, the No. 2 ranked junior in the ESPN HoopGurlz Super 60, the unsung hero theme was playing loudly.

Olivia Jones
Olivia Jones powered the Tennessee Flight with 16 first-half points in the Boo Williams gold championship game.

With the Belles' defense keenly aware that beating the Flight meant stopping not only second-ranked Davis but also the scoring of the No. 5 prospect in the 2013 class, Rebecca Greenwell, the opportunity was there for someone else to step up. Enter Olivia Jones, a 5-foot-7 forward. Giving up several inches in almost every game in the frontcourt, Jones used her quickness and toughness to put up 16 first-half points and put the Flight firmly in the driver's seat.

"I understand that there are other people that are better than me," said Jones, who has been given the nickname 'Honey Badger' from her team. "So I just try to play hard on defense, get rebounds and whatever is needed to win."

In the semifinal comeback against the Metros, it was back-to-back buckets from sophomore post Janie White that sparked a run. In the quarterfinal matchup with All Iowa Attack, the Flight blew a 20-point lead of its own, allowing the Attack to take a one-point lead with 30 seconds to play before junior forward Nina Davis, who scored 17 points in the finale, stepped up and made key plays.

"This is the most unsure team I've brought here," said Insell, whose team played five games in less than 48 hours. "I was scared. I didn't know what to expect."

The Flight have been to the Boo Williams spring event the last 25 years, making the finals eight times, but this is the first trophy the Murfreesboro, Tenn.,-based program will take home.

Lindsay Allen
Chris Hansen/ESPN.comLindsay Allen elevates for a finger roll en route to a game-high 19 points for the Belles.

Winning Boo was a team goal coming into the event, leaving just the USJN Nationals, a major July viewing period event in the Washington D.C., area left to conquer.

But even with the early outburst from Jones, who finished tied with Kaela Davis for a team-high 18 points, the Belles pushed their way back to within single digits. Lindsay Allen, a 5-6 junior point guard, finished with a game-high 19 points for the Belles, and junior guard Tyshell King matched Jones' 16 first-half and 18 total points.

The Flight focused their defense on arguably the most potent of the Belles' scorers, Jannah Tucker, the No. 9 prospect in the 2013 class, holding her scoreless in the first half and allowing her just five points for the game.

"We played more contain man-to-man and gave a little more help," said Insell, who took over coaching the Flight Silver team in 2009. "We didn't want Tucker to get off."

And so the spring season is off to the races, and the freshly painted target on the back of the Flight uniforms will remain until July 31, when the summer NCAA-certified evaluation period ends.

Sixers Sign Xavier Silas, Will Rest Starters Against The Bucks

Sixers Sign Xavier Silas, Will Rest Starters Against The Bucks

Newest Sixer Xavier Silas (credit: David Calvert/NBAE via Getty Images)

Newest Sixer Xavier Silas

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – With their playoff birth clinched, the Sixers will opt for rest over wins. The Sixers announced that Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, and Elton Brand have not made the trip to play in tonight’s game against the Bucks, and will not participate in the season finale against the Pistons. That plan works on a couple of different levels.

Here’s the first, all three could use the rest before the playoffs begin; Iguodala led the team in minutes per game and has had some knee problems, Young is noticeably thinner than he was last season and has looked worn of late, and Brand’s combination of age, effort, and guarding players much larger than he is has taken its toll. Those three players being fresh will give the Sixers a better chance to compete in their first round series.

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Arrest Made In Connection To 57 Tire Slashing Incidents In NE Philadelphia

Arrest Made In Connection To 57 Tire Slashing Incidents In NE Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Philadelphia Police say they’ve made an arrest in connection with dozens of tire slashings in several neighborhoods in Northeast Philadelphia.

Police sources have identified the suspect as David Toledo, a Mayfair resident who’s spoken out in anger about the vandalism.

Police are not releasing any other details at this time. A press conference has been scheduled for later in the evening.

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Marines discharge sergeant for Facebook posts

Marines discharge sergeant for Facebook posts

AP Photo
FILE - In this April 13,2012 file photo Marine Sgt. Gary Stein speaks with reporters in front of the federal court building in San Diego. The Marine Corps has decided to discharge the sergeant for criticizing President Barack Obama on Facebook. The Corps said Wednesday, April 25, 2012, that Sgt. Stein will be given an other than honorable discharge for violating Pentagon policy limiting speech of service members.

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- A sergeant will be discharged for criticizing President Barack Obama on Facebook in a case that called into question the Pentagon's policies about social media and its limits on the speech of active duty military personnel, the Marine Corps said Wednesday.

Sgt. Gary Stein will get an other-than-honorable discharge and lose most of his benefits for violating the policies, the Corps said.

The San Diego-area Marine who has served nine years in the Corps said he was disappointed by the decision. He argued that he was exercising his constitutional rights to free speech.

"I love the Marine Corps, I love my job. I wish it wouldn't have gone this way. I'm having a hard time seeing how 15 words on Facebook could have ruined my nine-year career," he told The Associated Press.

Gary Kreep, an attorney for Stein, said he would pursue administrative appeals within the Marine Corps but anticipates the effort will fail. He said he planned to file an amended complaint in federal court.

"As long as he wants to pursue this, we will be supporting him," said Kreep, who is executive director of the United States Justice Foundation, an advocacy group.

The Marines acted after saying Stein stated March 1 on a Facebook page used by Marine meteorologists, "Screw Obama and I will not follow all orders from him." Stein later clarified that statement, saying he would not follow unlawful orders.

Brig. Gen. Daniel Yoo, the commanding general of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, said in a brief statement Wednesday that evidence supported an administrative board's recommendation to discharge Stein.

Tom Umberg, a former Army colonel and military prosecutor, said Stein persisted even after being warned.

"The Marine Corps gave him the opportunity to think about his actions, yet Sgt. Stein continued to undermine the chain of command," said Umberg, who was not involved in Stein's case. "I think his purpose was to leave the Marine Corps in a dramatic fashion in order to begin a career in talk radio or what have you."

Umberg believes the decision to discharge Stein will have limited impact because the vast majority of Marines would never consider such postings.

"I think 99 percent of the soldiers and Marines currently on duty understand the duties of supporting the chain of command and understand their rights of free speech are limited," he said. "To that 1 percent who don't know their rights to free speech are limited once they take the oath, this is a loud and clear message."

During a hearing, a military prosecutor submitted screen grabs of Stein's postings on one Facebook page he created called Armed Forces Tea Party, which the prosecutor said included the image of Obama on a "Jackass" movie poster. Stein also superimposed Obama's image on a poster for "The Incredibles" movie that he changed to "The Horribles," military prosecutor Capt. John Torresala said.

At the hearing this month at Camp Pendleton, Torresala argued that Stein's behavior repeatedly violated Pentagon policy and he should be dismissed after ignoring warnings from his superiors about his postings.

The military has had a policy since the Civil War limiting the free speech of service members, including criticism of the commander in chief.

Pentagon directives say military personnel in uniform cannot sponsor a political club; participate in any TV or radio program or group discussion that advocates for or against a political party, candidate or cause; or speak at any event promoting a political movement.

Commissioned officers also may not use contemptuous words against senior officials.

Speaker: House to vote Friday on student loans

Speaker: House to vote Friday on student loans

AP Photo
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, accompanied by House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., left, and Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, speak about a student loans bill, Wednesday, April 25, 2012, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- In an escalating election-year clash, the House will vote Friday on a $5.9 billion Republican bill preventing interest rates on federal student loans from doubling this summer, paid for by cutting money from President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law.

Wednesday's abrupt announcement by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, came with Obama and Democrats clamoring daily for congressional action to prevent the current 3.4 percent interest rate on subsidized Stafford student loans from automatically increasing to 6.8 percent on July 1.

That increase, set by law unless Congress blocks it, would affect 7.4 million students at a time when both parties are competing for the votes of young adults and their parents who must foot college tuitions. Each is also trying to show voters that it knows best how to shield people from pain inflicted by the weak economy.

With Obama engaged in a series of campaign-style speeches in recent days about the need to block the interest rate boost, Republicans came under even greater pressure when Mitt Romney, the GOP's presumptive presidential nominee, announced Monday that he, too, favored the move.

Also taking the offensive were Senate Democrats, who introduced legislation Tuesday blocking the increase for a year. Senate Republicans said they backed the idea of freezing the interest rate but opposed a tax on some private corporations that Senate Democrats would use to pay for it. Until Boehner's announcement of Friday's vote, Republicans had nothing tangible they could vote for to demonstrate their support.

At a hurriedly called news conference, Boehner told reporters that Obama has been "trying to invent a fight where there wasn't and never has been one" and said, "We can and will fix the problem without a bunch of campaign-style theatrics."

He added, "What Washington shouldn't be doing is exploiting the challenges that young Americans face for political gain."

Boehner spoke after Obama had wrapped up his third college campus visit in two days, using his cheering young audiences as backdrops to laud Democrats' efforts to keep student loans affordable and to bash Republicans.

"Some of them suggest that students like you have to pay more so we can help bring down the deficit," he said about Republicans on Wednesday at the University of Iowa. "Now, think about that. These are the same folks who ran up the deficits for the last decade. They voted to keep giving billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to big oil companies who are raking in record profits. They voted to let millionaires and billionaires keep paying lower tax rates than middle-class workers."

House Republicans would pay for their one-year measure from a $17 billion prevention and public health fund Obama's law created for immunization campaigns, research, screenings and wellness education. Republicans have dubbed it a "slush fund" and sought to cut it to finance a variety of projects that they favor. There is $13.5 billion left in the fund for the coming decade, according to the administration.

The House GOP proposal ran into quick opposition from the White House, where spokesman Nick Papas said the two sides should pay for the bill with savings "that don't penalize middle-class families or undermine efforts to help more Americans stay healthy." Papas expressed confidence that an agreement could be reached.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the GOP had made "a dramatic reversal" because Republicans had pushed a federal budget through the House that would have let student interest rates double.

Pelosi has opposed eliminating the health care fund, which was already cut earlier this year to help pay for legislation preventing reductions in Medicare payments to doctors. But her statement stopped short of saying she would oppose the GOP bill on Friday.

"House Democrats will continue to work to ensure that seven million students and their families do not face this harmful interest rate hike," she said.

Senate Democrats' legislation would keep student loan interest rates at 3.4 percent for another year. It would be paid for by increasing the Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes owed by upper-income owners of some privately held corporations, including many lawyers' and doctors' practices.

Senate Republicans have voiced adamant opposition to that payroll tax proposal, saying it would make it harder for those firms to hire workers. But their leaders said they backed the goal of freezing interest rates for a year and accused Obama of trying to turn an easily resolvable issue into a political cudgel.

"Let's be honest," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on the Senate floor. "The only reason Democrats have proposed this particular solution to the problem is to get Republicans to oppose it, to make us cast a vote they think will make us look bad to the voters they need to win the next election."

McConnell said the two sides' differences could be resolved if Obama would negotiate and "choose results over rallies."

House Democrats also introduced a bill keeping the interest rates from rising for a year and paid for by eliminating subsidies to large oil and gas companies.

Underscoring the free-swinging politics in play, Obama said before Boehner's remarks that House Republicans were indicating that they would only extend the rate by cutting other student aid, a path the GOP did not follow.

Without mentioning him by name, Obama also took a swipe at Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., a GOP Senate candidate who said the government shouldn't be involved in the student loan market and, Obama said, compared it to a "stage 3 cancer of socialism." Obama said, "I don't know where to start. What do you mean? What are you talking about?"

Akin used the cancer reference at an April 21 forum to describe the federal government's involvement in areas he said should be left alone. He also criticized Democrats for eliminating private student loans and having that lending taken over by the government.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

76ers Make Playoffs For 2nd Straight Season

76ers Make Playoffs For 2nd Straight Season

Anthony Morrow #22 of the New Jersey Nets shoots against Lou Williams #23 of the Philadelphia 76ers on April 23, 2012 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.  (credit: Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

Anthony Morrow #22 of the New Jersey Nets shoots against Lou Williams #23 of the Philadelphia 76ers on April 23, 2012 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — The Philadelphia 76ers nailed down the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference and spoiled the Nets’ final game in New Jersey with a 105-87 victory Monday night.

Thaddeus Young scored all 15 of his points in the second half to help the 76ers make the postseason for the second straight year and eliminate the Milwaukee Bucks from playoff contention.

The win moved Philadelphia (34-30) into a tie with the New York Knicks for the No. 7 seed with two games remaining in the regular season.

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Penn Museum Gears Up For New Mayan Exhibit

Penn Museum Gears Up For New Mayan Exhibit

(credit: KYW's Cherri Gregg)

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Penn Museum has a new exhibit opening next week, which explores the world of the Mayan culture from ancient times through today.

The exhibit titled, ‘Maya 2012: Lords of Time,’ includes more than 150 articles excavated by Penn archaeologists at the site of Copan, Honduras, where a dynasty of 16 kings ruled for nearly four centuries. There are also interactive displays where visitors can hear from modern day Maya, and replicas of underground tombs unseen by the public.

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Hudson leaves court before grisly photos shown

Hudson leaves court before grisly photos shown

AP Photo
This courtroom sketch shows Jennifer Hudson right, and her fiance David Otunga looking on in the courtroom during the first day of William Balfour's murder trial at the Cook County Criminal Court in Chicago, Monday, April 23, 2012. Balfour is charged in the 2008 murder of the mother, brother and nephew of Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson.

CHICAGO (AP) -- The trial of the man charged with murdering three of Jennifer Hudson's family members resumed Tuesday with the Oscar-winner shutting her eyes as a police officer described finding her dead family members and later leaving the courtroom before photos of their bodies were shown.

Hudson watched much of the testimony before getting up and leaving shortly before prosecutors displayed pictures of her mother and brother's bloodied bodies. Prosecutors often let family members know when they will be showing unsettling evidence.

A day after Hudson offered emotional testimony, prosecutors began shifting their focus to presenting crime scene evidence in the case against her former brother-in-law, William Balfour.

Balfour was estranged from his wife, Hudson's sister, at the time of the killings. He has pleaded not guilty to murdering Hudson's mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew.

Several of the photographs showed Hudson's mother, 57-year-old Darnell Donerson, sprawled face down on the floor, with blood staining her white nightgown. Donald Fanelli, the forensics expert who was on the scene the day of the killings, testified that Hudson's mother may have used a broom by her hand in one picture to fend off the attacker.

Other photos showed Hudson's 29-year-old brother, Jason Hudson, with a gunshot wound near his ear, his head still on his pillow as he lay in bed.

Earlier in the day, Hudson hung her head and shut her eyes as Chicago police Sgt. David Dowling described finding her mother's body in the living room with gunshot wounds through her back. Dowling described finding Jason Hudson dead in his bed, with the sheets pulled up as if he had been sleeping.

Jennifer Hudson, wearing a black top and green skirt, sat in a fourth row bench well within view of jurors for much of the day Tuesday.

Another officer testified about the frantic search for Hudson's nephew, Julian King, who was found in an SUV three days later. Prosecutors also played a surveillance video showing Balfour getting out of a car at a gas station near the Hudson house on Chicago's South Side before the killings. Prosecutors are trying to show he was in the area at the time - something Balfour has denied.

As the video played on a courtroom screen, Hudson rested her head on her knees for several minutes.

Prosecutors created a buzz Monday by calling the Oscar winner and "American Idol" finalist as their first witness, but on Tuesday they began getting down to the nitty-gritty of their case.

With no surviving witnesses to the murders, prosecutors must offer overwhelming circumstantial evidence that Balfour committed the grisly crime on Oct. 24, 2008. One challenge will be tying Balfour to the alleged murder weapon, a silver and black .45-calibre handgun.

Prosecutors claim Balfour targeted the family in a horrific act of vindictiveness against his ex-wife. They believe he became enraged by balloons he saw at the home that he thought were from her new boyfriend.

Defense attorneys have said the killing could be connected to alleged drug dealing by Hudson's brother.

Prosecutors contend Balfour went inside the three-story house around 9 a.m. and shot Hudson's mother and brother. Investigators allege he then drove off in Jason Hudson's sport utility vehicle with 7-year-old Julian inside, and later shot the boy in the head as he lay behind a front seat.

Jennifer Hudson took the witness stand for about 30 minutes Monday in sometimes tearful, gut-wrenching testimony. Hudson, who was in Florida at the time of the shootings, spoke of her family and her reaction to her sister, Julia Hudson, telling her in 2006 that she was marrying Balfour.

"None of us wanted her to marry him," the 30-year-old said, her voice cracking as she struggled to hold back tears.

Later, Julia Hudson described how Balfour repeatedly threatened her and her family after she rejected his pleas in May 2008.

If convicted of at least two of the murder counts, Balfour would face a mandatory life sentence.

3 more Secret Service employees ousted in scandal

3 more Secret Service employees ousted in scandal

AP Photo
President Barack Obama sits with Jimmy Fallon during commercial break as he participates in a taping of the Jimmy Fallon Show, Tuesday, April 24, 2012, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, N.C..

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Three more Secret Service employees have been forced out of the government, bringing to nine the number of people who have lost their jobs in the prostitution scandal roiling the agency. President Barack Obama said the employees at the center of the sordid episode were "knuckleheads," but not representative of the agency that protects his family in the glare of public life.

Two employees have resigned and a third is having his national security clearance revoked, the Secret Service said Tuesday. The employee whose clearance is being revoked can appeal the decision.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said one of the resigning agents stayed at the Hilton hotel in Cartagena, Colombia, where Obama stayed for the Summit of Americas. The others stayed at the nearby Hotel Caribe.

Two others have been cleared of serious misconduct. Last week, six employees, including two supervisors, were forced out and another was cleared of serious wrongdoing. The three who were cleared will still face "appropriate administrative action", the Secret Service said.

The scandal erupted after a fight over payment between a Colombian prostitute and a Secret Service employee spilled into the hallway of the Hotel Caribe. A dozen military personnel have also been implicated and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said this week they have had their security clearances suspended.

Obama acknowledged Tuesday that the scandal was "a little distracting" and pressed for perspective.

"These guys are incredible. They protect me. They protect Michelle. They protect the girls. They protect our officials all around the world," the president said on NBC's "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon."

"A couple of knuckleheads shouldn't detract from what they do," Obama added. "What these guys were thinking, I don't know. That's why they're not there anymore."

Even as Obama spoke, officials on Capitol Hill were probing for any misconduct in the agency in the past decade and girding for the first public accounting of the incident that embarrassed the Obama administration.

A dozen Secret Service personnel and another 12 military enlistees preparing for Obama's visit to Cartagena have been under investigation for cavorting with prostitutes.

As many as 20 prostitutes were involved with the group, officials say, and none are believed to be underage.

Local law enforcement intervened on the prostitute's behalf during the fight over payment. Paid sex is legal in Cartagena but violates codes of conduct for U.S. personnel who were working there.

In a similar but unrelated incident, Panetta said Tuesday that three Marines on a U.S. Embassy security team and one embassy staff member were punished for allegedly pushing a prostitute out of a car in Brasilia, Brazil, last year after a dispute over payment. Panetta, speaking in Brasilia, said he had "no tolerance for that kind of conduct."

A senior defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss an investigation, said in the wake of the Cartagena scandal the woman involved in the Brasilia incident has hired a lawyer and is suing the embassy. The official said the woman broke her collarbone when she was pushed from the car.

The military investigation into the Cartagena incident is continuing.

The Colombia scandal has been widely denounced by official Washington, but it's a delicate political matter in an election year with the presidency and congressional majorities at stake. All sides have praised Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan's swift action and thorough investigation, in part because he's spent significant time keeping key lawmakers in the loop. Pentagon officials too are investigating and are expected to brief Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin and ranking Republican John McCain on Wednesday.

Even so, at least four congressional committees are investigating on the grounds that letting foreign nationals near U.S. personnel with sensitive information about the president's visit is a national security risk. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is expected to face tough questions Wednesday from the Senate Judiciary Committee on such matters as whether the agency's inspector general has launched an independent investigation.

Another Senate panel is looking for a pattern of misconduct. Sen. Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, told reporters Tuesday that he'll hold hearings on the service's culture and whether clear rules exist on how agents should behave when they are off duty but on assignment.

"I mean you think they wouldn't need that but maybe they do," Lieberman said. He added that his investigators are taking a longer view and beginning to follow up on tips that "whistle-blower people" have called in. He declined to provide details.

"I want to ask questions about whether there is any other evidence of misconduct by Secret Service agents in the last five or 10 years," Lieberman said. "If so what was done about it, could something have been done to have prevented what happened in Cartagena? And now that it has happened, what do they intend to do?"

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