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Weekly Press/Bullying Prevention News/Philadelphia Front Page News
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Phila. DA-Elect Williams Wanted More Help with Transition
by KYW's Steve Tawa
We haven't undergone a change in the district attorney's office in Philadelphia in quite awhile, so it's interesting to watch how the outgoing DA and her successor are handling things in the transition.
District attorney Lynne Abraham, who leaves that office after 18-years, sent out notice on Wednesday afternoon about the news conference for Thursday morning. Four hours later, the mayor's office sent out a similar notice, for a briefing a half hour before hers, with the incoming DA,Seth Williams.
Williams ran unsuccessfully against Abraham in 2005. Abraham didn't seek reelection in the past one, and Williams easily won:
"It's not as though people knew this day wouldn't be coming."
Posted by Front Page News at 4:47 PM
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
"Not a single dime of taxpayer dollars is being used," he said.
Yearend: March Madness for Villanova Basketball
by KYW's Pat Loeb
Philadelphia's sports highlights included a trip to the final four for Villanova in the spring.Whoever coined the term March madness must have known something like the euphoria that erupted on Villanova's campus as the Wildcats' made their march to the Final Four:
The team had the good luck to play the early rounds against American and UCLA at home-- in the Wachovia Center-- but it was talent and heart that led to two upsets in a row. First was Duke, then top-seeded Pitt in a game that went down to the final second:
For full story go to: http://www.kyw1060.com/
Posted by Front Page News at 5:07 PM
Battleship NJ Hopes You Have a Blast on New Years
Wanna start the New Year off with a bang, literally? The people who run the Battleship New Jersey are offering you the chance to do just that, although you don’t have a lot of time to debate it.For the last couple weeks, there’s been a quiet, on-line auction for the right to fire a 5” saluting gun on the Philadelphia side of the floating museum along the Camden waterfront. You’d do it at midnight to kick off the second of two fireworks displays.
Battleship marketing manager Jack Willard said they auctioned off rights to shoot the gun last year during the on-board New Years Party:
For full story go to: http://www.kyw1060.com/
Posted by Front Page News at 5:03 PM
Somali arrested at airport with chemicals, syringe
|This recent undated photo provided by Bancroft, an organization that provides technical and analytical advice to AMISOM, the African Union peace keeping force in Mogadishu shows a dog searching for explosives with a handler at his side at the Mogadishu airbase in Somalia. Officials told The Associated Press on Wednesday Dec. 30, 2009 that a man tried to board a commercial airliner in Mogadishu last month carrying powdered chemicals, liquid and a syringe that could have caused an explosion in a case bearing chilling similarities to the terrorist plot to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner. The man first caught the attention of Somali authorities because of the unexplained liquid he was carrying and the powder hidden on his person, said Michael Stock, the president of Bancroft. The security officials called over Bancroft personnel who patrol the airport with trained dogs.|
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) -- U.S. officials are investigating a Somali man's alleged attempt to board a flight last month carrying chemicals, liquid and a syringe in a case bearing chilling echoes of the plot to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day.
Terrorism analysts said the arrest in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, could prove highly valuable for the Detroit investigation if the incidents turn out to be linked.
The Somali was arrested by African Union peacekeeping troops Nov. 13 before boarding the Daallo Airlines plane bound for the northern Somali city of Hargeisa, then Djibouti and Dubai.
"We don't know whether he's linked with al-Qaida or other foreign organizations, but his actions were the acts of a terrorist. We caught him red-handed," said a Somali police spokesman, Abdulahi Hassan Barise.
A Nairobi-based diplomat said the incident has similarities to the attempted attack on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 in that the Somali was said to have a syringe, liquid and powdered chemicals - tools similar to those used by the Nigerian suspect on the Detroit-bound plane. The diplomat spoke on condition he not be identified because he wasn't authorized to release the information.
Barigye Bahoku, the spokesman for the African Union military force in Mogadishu, said the materials could have caused an explosion that would have resulted in cabin decompression, though he didn't think it would have brought the plane down.
For the Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab allegedly hid explosive PETN in a condom or condom-like bag just below his torso. In the Somali case, the powdered material smelled strongly of ammonia, and samples were sent to London for testing, Bahoku said.
The case drew little attention before the Christmas incident, but on Wednesday U.S. officials began to investigate any possible links to the Detroit attack. None would speak on the record.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said U.S. investigators are working with Somali authorities, and linking the case to the Christmas attack "would be speculative at this point."
Thomas Sanderson, a security analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the Somali suspect is extremely valuable for U.S. investigators, who will compare his statements with Abdulmutallab's.
Police spokesman Barise said the suspect is in Somali custody, but Sanderson said he was sure the U.S. has told the Somali government: "He's ours, and we're taking him."
He said there was no certainty the two were trained by the same group, but believed the similarities are "probably an indicator that more than just two people have been trained and prepared and ordered or convinced to carry out individual acts of terrorism," Sanderson said.
Michael Stock is president of Bancroft, an organization that advises AMISOM, the African Union peacekeeping force in Mogadishu. He said that when the passenger aroused suspicions, Somalis summoned Bancroft guards who patrol the airport.
"At the time, we provided the explosive material itself for analysis and a description of the incident to Western embassy officials involved in supporting AMISOM, for them to pass to law enforcement," Stock said. He said he heard nothing further.
U.S. investigators say Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian suspect held in the Detroit case, told them he received training and instructions from al-Qaida operatives in Yemen, which Western officials say is a jumping-off point for foreign fighters slipping into Somalia. Large swaths of Somalia are controlled by an al-Qaida-linked insurgent group, al-Shabab.
Abdulmutallab is charged with trying to destroy an aircraft. U.S. authorities allege he tried to ignite a two-part concoction of PETN and possibly a glycol-based liquid explosive, setting off popping, smoke and some fire but no deadly detonation.
If the Somali suspect was planning anything similar, it wasn't known what his specific target might have been. Most passengers on Daallo's Mogadishu route are Somali. The carrier's Web site calls it the national airline of Somalia's neighbor, Djibouti. Some 1,800 U.S. troops are stationed in Djibouti, while Dubai would offer the greatest range of Westbound flights along the route in question.
A Somali security official involved in the Mogadishu arrest said the suspect had a 1-kilogram (2.2-pound) package of chemical powder and a container of liquid chemicals. He said the suspect was the last passenger in line to board.
The man's name was not released, but the security official gave it as Abdi Hassan Abdi and said he was middle-aged. Stock said the name he got was Abdi Hassan Abdullah, but it was unclear that is his real name.
Once the chemicals and syringe were detected, the suspect tried to bribe the team that detained him, the security official said. He said he had a white shampoo bottle containing a black acid-like substance, a clear plastic bag with a light green chalky substance, and a syringe containing a green liquid. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to release the information.
A spokeswoman for Daallo Airlines said that company officials were unaware of the incident and would have to seek more information before commenting. Daallo Airlines is based in Dubai and has offices in Djibouti and France.
Posted by Front Page News at 5:01 PM
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Temple Football Fans Head to DC for Bowl Game
by KYW's Al Novack
A charter bus loaded with about 60 Temple University alumni left the Liacouras Center Tuesday morning bound for Washington, DC to cheer on the Owls as they take on UCLA in the Eagle Bank Bowl.
The spirits were high, many noting this will be only the 3rd bowl game in Temple’s history and the first one since 1979.
Vince Boccollo of Newtown, graduated in 1978 so he missed that 1979 bowl game but, he said, he wouldn’t miss this for anything in the world and he predicted a big win.:
For full story go to:http://www.kyw1060.com/
Posted by Front Page News at 5:17 PM
NKorea confirms it has detained an American
|A two year old family photo released by the Park family shows missing missionary Robert Park, second from right, with his father, Pyong Park, right, mother, Helen Park, and brother Paul Park. North Korean border guards apparently detained Robert Park as soon as he walked into the communist nation in an effort to call attention to Pyongyang's human rights abuses.|
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- North Korea acknowledged Tuesday it had detained an American for illegally entering the reclusive country, news welcomed by relatives of an Arizona missionary who feared they would never hear from him again after he sneaked across the border.
Activists say they last saw Robert Park as he slipped across the frozen Tumen River into North Korea on Christmas Day, carrying letters urging the country's absolute leader to step down and free the hundreds of thousands of people held in political camps.
After four days without any word, relatives of the 28-year-old Korean-American said Tuesday they were relieved when the communist country finally announced it had a U.S. citizen in custody - though analysts say Park's actions are likely to be seen as hostile to the regime and could draw a long prison sentence.
"My fear was that they say they don't know anything about it and may get rid of him secretly," Manchul Cho, an uncle of Park, told The Associated Press in California. "Once they recognize it, that's really good."
The two-sentence dispatch from the official Korean Central News Agency said an American was being investigated after "illegally entering" the country on Christmas Eve. The report did not identify the man, but activists and family believe it is Park. There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy in the date of entry.
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said: "The DPRK government has confirmed it is holding a U.S. Citizen pending an investigation. We will continue to work through the Swedish Embassy, our protecting power in Pyongyang, to seek consular access to this American citizen."
Cho, a Los Angeles psychiatrist, said he hopes North Korea will deport Park, a devout Christian, noting that a long incarceration would only galvanize critics of the communist regime.
The Rev. Madison Shockley, a Park family pastor in Carlsbad, Calif., also called the announcement positive news.
"Without acknowledging his presence, they could do anything and we'd never hear from him again. They could have said 'we don't know who you're talking about,'" he said. "Now, by acknowledging, they have accountability for it."
Just months ago, North Korea freed two U.S. journalists arrested in March whom it had sentenced to 12 years of hard labor for trespassing and engaging in "hostile acts." The women were released in August to former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who journeyed to Pyongyang to negotiate their freedom.
The latest detention could give the North bargaining power with Washington, which is trying to coax Pyongyang to return to the international talks aimed at ending its nuclear weapons programs. The two countries agreed on the need to resume the negotiations during a trip to Pyongyang by President Barack Obama's special envoy earlier this month, but North Korea did not make a firm commitment on when it would rejoin the talks.
Analysts have suggested that the negotiations to free American reporters Euna Lee and Laura Ling may have been a turning point for U.S.-North Korea relations, giving the volatile regime the opportunity to make a fresh start with Washington.
Now, Pyongyang finds itself once again holding a trump card.
Park's detention presents "a diplomatic headache for the two countries," said Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea expert at Seoul's Dongguk University, adding that the North could try to take advantage of the detention issue in its negotiations with the U.S.
But he said Washington is unlikely to go to the same lengths for Park as it did in the high-profile detention of Ling and Lee, who work for the Current TV media venture started by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore.
North Korea's criminal code punishes illegal entry with up to three years in prison, but it's unclear how the North might handle Park's case.
Analyst Paik Hak-soon of the private Sejong Institute think tank in South Korea predicted Pyongyang will sentence Park to a lengthy prison term, then free him.
State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters Monday that the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang has offered to help get information about Park for the U.S., which does not have diplomatic ties with North Korea.
"We are concerned by these reports and we are looking into them," Kelly said in Washington.
The Rev. John Benson, pastor at Life in Christ Community Church in Park's hometown of Tucson, Arizona, supported Park's self-proclaimed mission to draw attention to the situation in North Korea.
"Drastic situations call for drastic measures. We all need to wake up and not pay lip service to North Korea," Benson said. "We need to take action, and that is what Robert is doing."
North Korea holds some 154,000 political prisoners in six large camps across the country, according to South Korean government estimates. Pyongyang has long been regarded as having one of the world's worst human rights records, but it denies the existence of prison camps.
Posted by Front Page News at 5:15 PM
Obama says 'systemic failure' allowed airline plot
|President Barack Obama speaks at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2009.|
HONOLULU (AP) -- President Barack Obama said Tuesday that "a systemic failure" allowed the attempted Christmas Day attack on a Detroit-bound flight from Amsterdam. He called it "totally unacceptable."
The president said he wants preliminary results by Thursday from two investigations he has ordered to examine the many lapses that occurred. It will take weeks for a more comprehensive investigation into what allowed a 23-year-old Nigerian carrying explosives onto the flight despite the fact the suspect had possible ties to al-Qaida, Obama said.
"It's essential we diagnose the problems quickly," he said, interrupting his vacation for a second consecutive day to address the incident, with more anger this time directed at the flaws in the U.S. system.
The suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was on one advisory list, but never made it onto more restrictive lists that would have caught the attention of U.S. counterterrorist screeners, despite his father's warnings to U.S. Embassy officials in Nigeria last month. Those warnings also did not result in Abdulmutallab's U.S. visa being revoked.
On top of that, airport security equipment did not detect the bomb-making devices and materials he allegedly carried on board.
Obama said many things went right after the incident, with passengers and the flight crew subduing the man and government officials working quickly to increase security.
However, he said: "What's also clear is this: When our government has information on a known extremist and that information is not shared and acted upon as it should have been ... a systemic failure has occurred. And I consider that totally unacceptable."
Posted by Front Page News at 5:07 PM
Monday, December 28, 2009
McNabb enjoys Philadelphia Eagles' options in 30-27 win over Broncos
About 18 hours ago: Philadelphia Eagles' Jason Avant (81) catches a tipped pass for a touchdown as Denver Broncos' Renaldo Hill (23) defends in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2009, in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - David Akers nailed a 28-yard field goal with four seconds left in the game, as the Eagles overcame blowing a 17-point lead in the second half to hold off Denver, 30-27, in a matchup packed with far-reaching playoff implications.
Donovan McNabb passed for 322 yards and three touchdowns with an interception, completing 20-of-35 throws.
Brent Celek caught two scores amid a 121-yard receiving effort, while DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant also had receiving scores for Philadelphia (11-4), which secured an invitation to the playoffs with last Sunday's victory over San Francisco.
The win over Denver puts the Eagles on the precipice of clinching the NFC East. However, that depends on the outcome of Dallas' divisional matchup with Washington in Sunday's nightcap. The Cowboys, 1 1/2 games back in the standings, will host Philadelphia in the regular-season finale on January 3.
Kyle Orton threw three touchdown passes and an interception amid a 189-yard passing effort. He finished 27-of-41 passing, with two of his scores going to Jabar Gaffney, who made seven grabs for 69 yards.
Knowshon Moreno had the other receiving touchdown, and Brandon Marshall caught eight passes for 39 yards for Denver (8-7), whose playoff chances diminish with each passing week. Losses in seven of the last nine games have placed the Broncos' once-certain chances of reaching the playoffs in clear jeopardy.
The defeat further muddled the AFC's wild card picture; Denver is now tied with the Jets, Houston, Pittsburgh and Baltimore at 8-7 with two spots up for grabs. Miami and Jacksonville remain a game back heading into the final week of the regular season.
Posted by Front Page News at 6:14 PM
Philly Gears Up for Big Celebrations on New Year's Eve
by KYW's Hadas Kuznits
Next weekend is New Year's weekend and there are still a lot of options if you haven't yet made plans.
You don't have to spend a lot of money to celebrate New Year's in Philadelphia, starting with two free fireworks displays over the Delaware River -- one at 6pm on Thursday, the other at midnight:
"You know, the people have spoken and the powers that be have answered. So the idea is, twice the fireworks, twice the fun."
For full story go to:http://www.kyw1060.com/
Posted by Front Page News at 6:13 PM
House Democrats pessimistic about public option
|President Barack Obama, accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden, speaks in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 24, 2009, after the Senate passed the health care reform bill.|
WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Democrats aren't optimistic that a government insurance plan, a central element of health care legislation passed in their chamber, will survive negotiations with the Senate.
While insisting "it's not dead," Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland said Sunday he recognizes realities in the Senate, where Democrats had to scrape up every vote from their side to pass a bill - even one without a government plan to compete in the private insurance marketplace.
"Before the House was to give up the public option, we would want to be persuaded that there are other mechanisms in whatever bill comes out that will keep down premiums," said Van Hollen. "We've got to make sure that the final product is affordable."
Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, the No. 3 Democrat in the House and one who had appealed to President Barack Obama not to yield on the public plan, set out conditions for yielding himself.
"We want a public option to do basically three things: Create more choice for insurers, create more competition for insurance companies, and to contain costs," Clyburn said. "So if we can come up with a process by which these three things can be done, then I'm all for it. Whether or not we label it a public option or not is of no consequence."
Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., underscored the divisions Democrats will need to bridge when negotiators from the House and Senate meet next month to reconcile the two bills. He said there will need to be more give on the House side than the Senate, which took weeks to find the 60 votes needed for passage.
"If we are going to have a final law, it will look a lot more like the Senate version than the House version," Menendez asserted.
The Senate's Christmas Eve achievement brought the nation closer than it's been for generations to a new order in health insurance. It would eventually require nearly all Americans to get coverage, help many pay for it and restrict onerous insurance company practices such as denying coverage to people with pre-existing sickness.
But nothing will change for anyone until the House and Senate can settle on common legislation, pass it and send it to Obama to sign.
The high stakes have both parties hoping they can find a few converts from the other side. Nearly every Republican in Congress has opposed the measures.
"If some of the Republicans would come forward with suggestions - offer a vote or two, or three or four - to take away the need to have every last one of the 60 Democrats, you'd have a much better bill in accordance with the tradition of the Congress, especially the Senate, on bipartisanship," said Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, himself a party switcher.
Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina voiced similar hope, to opposite ends: "a few Democrats to stand up in the House that maybe didn't before and help us stop this thing."
DeMint, Van Hollen, Menendez and Specter spoke on "Fox News Sunday." Clyburn was on CBS' "Face the Nation" and CNN's "State of the Union."
Posted by Front Page News at 9:05 AM
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Merry Xmas in Hollywood: Box-office record falls
|Film Director James Cameron, center, poses with his film producer Jon Landau, left, and Jim Gianopulos, chief executive of Fox Filmed Entertainment, right, after promote their new 3D movie "Avatar" in Beijing, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2009. James Cameron says China's film industry stands to gain a lot if the country opened its doors to foreign films, after the World Trade Organization upheld a ruling this week that China was illegally restricting imports of movies and other media. The restrictions have been a key complaint by Western countries, who complain that China's rapid rise as a trade power has been in part aided by unfair policies that boost sales of Chinese goods abroad while limiting imports into its market.|
NEW YORK (AP) -- It was a memorable and merry Christmas in Hollywood as moviegoers shattered box-office records, responding in droves to a diverse array of high-profile releases over the holiday weekend.
The estimated $278 million in weekend box-office revenue broke the previous record of roughly $253 million set in July 2008, the weekend "The Dark Knight" was released.
A diverse group of films drew throngs to the multiplexes: James Cameron's "Avatar" pushed strongly into its second week while "Sherlock Holmes," "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel" and "It's Complicated" all opened.
"Avatar," the 3-D epic, topped them all, earning $75 million for 20th Century Fox, according to studio estimates Sunday. Remarkably, that was only a 3 percent drop from its opening weekend total of $77.4 million. (Blockbusters typically drop 30-50 percent in the second weekend.) In its 10 days of release, "Avatar" has made $212 million domestically - and could be on its way to a worldwide gross of over $1 billion.
"This thing is going to be playing and playing, I can tell you that," said Bert Livingston, 20th Century Fox distribution executive. "There's a lot of business out there. Everybody's got good movies out."
In second was "Sherlock Holmes," Guy Ritchie's reboot of the franchise with Robert Downey Jr. starring as Arthur Conan Doyle's detective. The Warner Bros. film opened with a weekend total of $65.4 million, including a record Christmas Day debut of $24.9 million.
It was a start that seemed sure to pave the way for sequels. Dan Fellman, head of distribution for Warner Bros., called the result "sensational."
"Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel," which opened Wednesday, took in $50.2 million on the weekend and $77.1 million in its five days of release. The film, also from Fox, earned an impressive $18.8 million on Wednesday alone. The strong start suggested that "Squeakquel" was likely to surpass its 2007 original, which made $217 million.
Also opening was Nancy Meyer's "It's Complicated," the romantic comedy starring Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin. With an audience 72 percent female, the Universal film took in $22.1 million, a solid debut.
The sparkling Christmas weekend results spelled good things for all the films in release in the coming week - one of the most lucrative of the year.
"We all know what next week means to the industry. This is ... huge," said Nikki Rocco, head of distribution for Universal. "Christmas is past us. No more shopping, no more returning. College kids are home. ... I'm so optimistic about what the next weekend holds for us."
Said Livingston: "Starting this Monday, every day is a Saturday."
Two films with Oscar aspirations also released wide over the weekend: Jason Reitman's "Up in the Air" (Paramount) and Rob Marshall's "Nine" (Weinstein Co.).
"Up in the Air," which has some of the best awards momentum, grossed $11.8 million, bringing its cumulative total to $24.5 million - already nearly earning back its production budget.
"For us, this movie was always the movie that we felt was going to be a real focus during the awards season," said Rob Moore, Paramount vice chairman. "It feels like this should have a long run as awards season continues."
"Nine," the adaptation of the Broadway musical (which itself was a riff of Federico Fellini's classic film "8 1/2") earned $5.5 million in 1408 theaters.
"It's an absolutely fitting end to the biggest box office year of all time," said Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for Hollywood.com. "It's just been a total roller coaster ride. It's like audience members are on board."
2009 still has several days to go, but the year is already a record for domestic ticket sales with more than $10 billion at the box office. That surpassed the $9.7 billion mark of 2007.
While some of the credit has to go the recession (movies historically do well in hard times when a trip to the movie theater is a relatively cheap form of entertainment and escapism), there was a feeling Sunday that Hollywood had put forth a better product this Christmas.
"People say it's the recession," said Dergarabedian. "It's the movies - it's really the movies. It seems like when people aren't at home, they're at the movies."
He added: "You're going to find a smile on the face of every studio chief out there today."
Hollywood also seemed to be offering good ol' spectacle to moviegoers. "Avatar" grossed $8.8 million in IMAX theaters, actually increasing from its opening weekend. IMAX chairman and president Greg Foster said they were operating essentially at capacity.
"There is no context," said Foster. "It's so far beyond where we've ever been. It's not eking past a record, it's shattering it."
Christmas weekend was also neatly organized around various demographics. There was science-fiction, romantic comedy, family fare, action-packed thriller and serious awards-contender.
"That's what fueled this Christmas, the diversity of the films," said Dergarabedian. "It was like a cinematic buffet line. If you can't find a movie that you like in the marketplace right now, you don't like movies."
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "Avatar," $75 million.
2. "Sherlock Holmes," $65.4 million.
3. "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel," $50.2 million.
4. "It's Complicated," $22.1 million.
5. "Up in the Air," $11.8 million.
6. "The Blind Side," $11.7 million.
7. "The Princess and the Frog," $8.7 million.
8. "Nine," $5.5 million.
9. "Did You Hear About the Morgans?" $5 million.
10. "Invictus," $4.4 million.
Posted by Front Page News at 6:28 PM
Percy Sutton, attorney for Malcolm X, dies at 89
|FILE - Percy Sutton, who rescued the Apollo Theater in New York City from extinction eight years ago, poses under the Marquee in this July, 1991 file photo. Sutton, the pioneering civil rights attorney who represented Malcolm X before launching successful careers as a political power broker and media mogul, died Saturday Dec. 26, 2009 at age 89.|
NEW YORK (AP) -- Percy Sutton, the pioneering civil rights attorney who represented Malcolm X before launching successful careers as a political power broker and media mogul, has died. He was 89.
Marissa Shorenstein, a spokeswoman for Gov. David Paterson, confirmed that Sutton died Saturday. She did not know the cause. His daughter, Cheryl Sutton, declined to comment Saturday when reached by phone at her New York City home.
The son of a former slave, Percy Sutton became a fixture on 125th Street in Harlem after moving to New York City following his service with the famed Tuskegee Airmen in World War II. His Harlem law office, founded in 1953, represented Malcolm X and the slain activist's family for decades.
The consummate politician, Sutton served in the New York State Assembly before taking over as Manhattan borough president in 1966, becoming the highest-ranking black elected official in the state.
Sutton also mounted unsuccessful campaigns for the U.S. Senate and mayor of New York, and served as political mentor for the Rev. Jesse Jackson's two presidential races.
Jackson recalled Sutton talking about electing a black president as early as 1972. Sutton was influential in getting his 1984 campaign going, he said.
"He never stopped building bridges and laying the groundwork," Jackson said Sunday. "We are very glad to be the beneficiaries of his work."
In a statement released Saturday night, Gov. David Paterson called Sutton a mentor and "one of New York's and this nation's most influential African-American leaders."
"Percy was fiercely loyal, compassionate and a truly kind soul," Paterson said. "He will be missed but his legacy lives on through the next generations of African-Americans he inspired to pursue and fulfill their own dreams and ambitions."
President Barack Obama called Sutton "a true hero" to African-Americans across the country.
"His life-long dedication to the fight for civil rights and his career as an entrepreneur and public servant made the rise of countless young African-Americans possible," Obama said in a statement.
In 1971, with his brother Oliver, Sutton purchased WLIB-AM, making it the first black-owned radio station in New York City. His Inner City Broadcasting Corp. eventually picked up WBLS-FM, which reigned for years as New York's top-rated radio station, before buying stations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit and San Antonio between 1978-85.
The Texas purchase marked a homecoming for the suave and sophisticated Sutton, born in San Antonio on Nov. 24, 1920, the youngest of 15 children.
Among Sutton's other endeavors was his purchase and renovation of the famed Apollo Theater when the Harlem landmark's demise appeared imminent.
"The Apollo and its staff stand on the shoulders of Mr. Sutton as the theater continues to flourish," said Jonelle Procope, president and CEO of Apollo Theater Foundation Inc. "(He) will be greatly missed and will always be an integral part of the Apollo legacy."
Sutton's father, Samuel, was born into slavery just before the Civil War. The elder Sutton became principal at a segregated San Antonio high school, and he made education a family priority: All 12 of his surviving children attended college.
When he was 13, Percy Sutton endured a traumatic experience that drove him inexorably into the fight for racial equality. A police officer approached Sutton as the teen handed out NAACP pamphlets. "N-----, what are you doing out of your neighborhood?" he asked before beating the youth.
When World War II arrived, Sutton's enlistment attempts were rebuffed by Southern white recruiters. The young man went to New York, where he was accepted and joined the Tuskegee Airmen.
After the war, Sutton earned a law degree in New York while working as a post office clerk and a subway conductor. He served again as an Air Force intelligence officer during the Korean War before returning to Harlem in 1953 and establishing his law office with brother Oliver and a third partner, George Covington.
In addition to representing Malcolm X for a decade until his 1965 assassination, the Sutton firm handled the cases of more than 200 defendants arrested in the South during the 1963-64 civil rights marches. Sutton was also elected to two terms as president of the New York office of the NAACP.
After Malcolm's assassination, Sutton worked as lawyer for Malcolm's widow, Betty Shabazz. He represented her grandson, 12-year-old Malcolm Shabazz, when the youth was accused of setting a 1997 fire that caused her death.
Sutton was elected to the state Legislature in 1965, and quickly emerged as spokesman for its 13 black members. His charisma and eloquence led to his selection as Manhattan borough president in 1966, completing the term of Constance Baker Motley, who was appointed federal judge.
Two years later, Sutton announced a run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Jacob Javits, although he pulled out of the Democratic primary to back Paul O'Dwyer.
Sutton remained in his Manhattan job through 1977, the same year he launched a doomed campaign for mayor that ended with Edward I. Koch defeating six competitors for the Democratic nomination.
Sutton was among the first voices raised against the Vietnam War, surrendering his delegate's seat at the 1968 Democratic convention in protest and supporting anti-war candidate George McGovern four years later against incumbent President Richard Nixon.
In addition to his radio holdings, Sutton also headed a group that owned The Amsterdam News, the second largest black weekly newspaper in the country. The paper was later sold.
Sutton's devotion to Harlem and its people was rarely more evident than when he spent $250,000 to purchase the shuttered Apollo Theater in 1981. The Apollo turned 70 in 2004, a milestone that was unthinkable until Sutton stepped in to save the landmark.
Sutton "retired" in 1991, but his work as an adviser, mentor and confidante to politicians and businessmen never abated. He was among a group of American businessmen selected during the Clinton administration to attend meetings with the Group of Seven (G-7) Nations in 1995-96.
"He was a great man," said Charles Warfield Jr., the president and chief operating officer of ICBC Broadcast Holdings Inc., when reached early Sunday. He declined to comment further out of respect for the wishes of Sutton's family.
The Rev. Al Sharpton said he last visited Sutton in a nursing home Wednesday. He recalled meeting Sutton for the first time at age 12; Four years later, Sutton paid for his trip to a national black political convention because the teenage Sharpton couldn't afford to go.
"He personified the black experience of the 20th century," Sharpton said. "He started the century where blacks were victims. We ended as victors."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Sunday that flags on city buildings would be lowered in Sutton's honor.
Posted by Front Page News at 6:27 PM
Security reviews under way after airliner attack
|FILE -This Dec. 25, 2009 file photo shows Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on the runway after arriving at Detroit Metropolitan Airport from Amsterdam. Officials say a passenger aboard the plane was trying to ignite an explosive device Friday.|
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Investigators piecing together a brazen attempt to bring down a trans-Atlantic airliner said Sunday the suspect tucked a small bag holding his deadly concoction on his body, using an explosive that would have been easily detected with the right airport equipment.
His success in smuggling and partially igniting the material on Friday's flight to Detroit prompted the Obama administration to promise a sweeping review of aviation security.
Adding to the airborne jitters, a second Nigerian man was detained Sunday from the same Northwest flight to Detroit after he locked himself in the plane's bathroom. Officials reported that he was belligerent but genuinely sick, and that, in an abundance of caution, the plane was taken to a remote location for screening before passengers were let off.
Investigators concluded he posed no threat. Despite the government's decision after the attempted Friday attack to mobilize more air marshals, none was on the Sunday flight from Amsterdam, according to a government report obtained by The Associated Press.
Stiffer boarding measures met passengers at gates as authorities warned travelers to expect extra delays returning home from holidays. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs announced a review of air safety on two broad fronts, saying the government will investigate its systems for placing suspicious travelers on watch lists and for detecting explosives before passengers board flights.
Both lines of defense were breached in an improbable series of events Christmas Day that spanned three continents and culminated in a struggle and fire aboard a Northwest jet shortly before its safe landing in Detroit. Law enforcement officials believed the suspect tried to ignite a two-part concoction of PETN and possibly a glycol-based liquid explosive, setting off popping, smoke and some fire but no deadly detonation.
Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, an Islamic devotee once dubbed "the Pope" as a sign of respect by classmates, was released from a Michigan hospital in the custody of federal marshals Sunday after being treated for burns. He is charged with attempting to destroy an aircraft and placing a destructive device in a plane.
Abdulmutallab's lawyer said Sunday that he is now in a federal prison in Milan, Mich.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano hastened to assure people that flying is "very, very safe."
She said the suspect in Friday's attack "was stopped before any damage could be done. I think the important thing to recognize here is that once this incident occurred, everything happened that should have."
That brought a sharp rebuke from Rep. Peter King of New York, the top Republican on the Homeland Security Committee. "It's not reassuring when the secretary of Homeland Security says the system worked," King said. "It failed in every respect."
Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader in the Senate, said, "It's amazing to me that an individual like this who was sending out so many signals could end up getting on a plane going to the U.S."
An apparent malfunction in a device designed to detonate the high explosive PETN may have been all that saved the 278 passengers and the crew aboard Northwest Flight 253. No undercover air marshal was on board and passengers and crew subdued the suspect when he tried to set off the explosion. He succeeded only in starting a fire on himself.
Law enforcement officials say Abdulmutallab hid a condom or condom-like pouch below his torso containing PETN, the primary ingredient in detonating cords used for industrial explosions.
Airport "puffer" machines that blow air on a passenger to collect and analyze residues would probably have detected the powder, as would bomb-sniffing dogs or a hands-on search using a swab, they said, but most passengers in airports only go through magnetometers, which detect metal rather than explosives. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation.
Abdulmutallab told authorities after his arrest that his plan originated with al-Qaida's network inside Yemen, a link the U.S. government has avoided making so far. Napolitano said there was no indication yet that Abdulmutallab is part of a larger terrorist plot, although his possible ties to al-Qaida are still under investigation.
A video posted online four days before the bombing attempt featured an al-Qaida operative in Yemen threatening the U.S. and saying "we are carrying a bomb." It was not immediately clear whether the speaker was anticipating Friday's bombing attempt.
Abdulmutallab had been placed on a watch list with more than 500,000 names in November, but not one that denied him passage by air into the U.S. Officials said he came to the attention of U.S. intelligence last month when his father, a prominent Nigerian banker, reported to the American Embassy in Nigeria about his son's increasingly extremist views.
Despite that red flag, Abdulmutallab was not elevated to more exclusive - and perhaps manageable - lists of some 18,000 people who are designated for additional security searches or barred from flying altogether. Napolitano said that would have required "specific, credible, derogatory information" that authorities didn't have.
A U.S. official said the father's concerns were shared among those in the embassy, including liaison personnel from other agencies based there, such as the FBI. The alert was then relayed to Washington and again shared among agencies such as the State, Justice and Homeland Security departments, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the investigation.
Nigerian Information Minister Dora Akunyili said Abdulmutallab, who was living in London, sneaked back into Nigeria to catch the flight that would take him to Amsterdam and Detroit. She did not elaborate on how he entered the country.
Abdulmutallab had a U.S. visa issued in June 2008 and valid through June 2010.
Just as passenger shoe searches became the order of the day after Richard Reid tried to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight in 2001 with PETN hidden in his shoes, the latest attempted assault could bring new layers of screening and delays. Among the possibilities: fuller and more frequent body pat-downs and scanning.
"I think we have to head in that direction," King said. "Yes, there is some brief violation of privacy with a full body scan. But on the other hand, if we can save thousands of lives, to me, we have to make that decision."
Gibbs was noncommittal on that question. "We obviously want to review and make sure that all the detection capabilities that are supposed to happen, whether it's a pat-down, whether it's additional security selection - that that happens in each instance."
Gibbs appeared on ABC's "This Week," NBC's "Meet the Press" and CBS' "Face the Nation." Napolitano spoke on CNN's "State of the Union" as well as on NBC and ABC. King appeared on CBS; McConnell appeared on ABC.
Posted by Front Page News at 6:24 PM
Saturday, December 26, 2009
This "Sam Dakota Stone" Kid Looks Like the Boondocks Sent A Message To Cheyenne & Samson Downing by Van Stone firstname.lastname@example.org
This "Sam Dakota Stone" Kid Looks Like the Boondocks Sent A Message To Cheyenne & Samson Downing by Van Stone email@example.com
Above: Sam Dakota Stone Downing, a.k.a. "The It Kid."
Above: The Boondocks
Happy New Year and Happy Holidays to you all.
Special Santa, Elves Mark 25th Year of Bringing Christmas to Area's Sick Kids
Posted by Front Page News at 1:14 PM
Man Ousted as Constable by a Judge in Montco
by KYW’s Brad Segall
A Lower Merion man will not take the oath of office as a constable next month even though he was elected by the voters in November. A Montgomery County judge ruled he was in contempt of court and should never have run in the first place.
Judge Paul Tressler accused Steven Sokoloff of deceiving the voters because he agreed in December 2007 never to run for constable anywhere in Montgomery County. That agreement was in exchange for the district attorney’s office not prosecuting the Ardmore man for complaints related to his work as a deputy constable.
District attorney Risa Ferman:
“When the court issues an order and you are told what the order says you have an obligation to comply with it and any individual who is going to arrogantly ignore a court order is going to suffer consequences.”
For full story go to:http://www.kyw1060.com/
Posted by Front Page News at 1:11 PM
Shoppers return to malls, looking for deals
|A shopper chooses bargains behind sales advertisements at Selfridges department store as retailers launch after-Christmas sales on Oxford street in London, Saturday, Dec. 26, 2009.|
Steady crowds of shoppers returned to malls across the country Saturday, rummaging through thinly stocked shelves hunting for deals, next year's Christmas gifts and, for most, gifts for themselves.
Retailers made a push to woo gift-card-toting shoppers by slashing prices and advertising doorbuster deals - at some stores as more than 60 percent off clothing like pajamas, sweaters and ties before 1 p.m. - often reserved for the day after Thanksgiving.
Diana Mayfield, a 56-year-old business trainer from Jacksonville, Ill., managed to get two Christmas ornaments for $6, marked down from $28. She was out before dawn Saturday while visiting family in Maryland, scouring for next year's Christmas gifts.
"It's 60 percent off original, so that's pretty good," she said while eyeing a rack of sweaters. "I usually get my electronics the day after Thanksgiving, and we get clothes and paper goods the day after Christmas."
Knowing holiday shoppers would likely spend less, merchants carefully managed inventory for the season. That meant by Saturday, some store shelves were practically empty.
Weather also could complicate things again this weekend, as a strong snow storm swept across portions of the nation's midsection and rain dampened the mid-Atlantic through New England.
"I think the big concern on all retailers' mind today will be the factor of the weather," said Tom Aiello, a spokesman for Sears and Kmart stores. "But it seems so far, customers have a good resolve to get out. ... You've got a lot of thrifty shopers out today looking for great values."
Donna Brown, a 52-year-old hair dresser from Seaford, Del., visited The Centre at Salisbury on Tuesday but returned Saturday to find few pairs of the $11.99 pajamas she'd been eyeing at J.C. Penney, which opened at 5 a.m.
"Now there's nothing," she said. "Everything's been picked over."
In New Jersey, Bernaden Demesyeux wasn't having much luck, either, despite arriving at her local mall just before 6:30.
"I was trying to find a dress coat for my husband, but didn't find anything," she said after more than an hour of shopping. "Everything is the same prices as before."
The week after Christmas is big business for retailers, making up 15 percent of sales last year, according research from ShopperTrak, which tracks sales and traffic at more than 50,000 outlets.
Thanks to a fluke in the calendar, merchants have a whole weekend to entice shoppers immediately after Christmas. That meant many stores were offering expanded hours Saturday and extra deals hoping crowds of gift-card-toting shoppers would snap up goods.
To help their cause, retailers sent a barrage of e-mails to faithful shoppers in the past day. "Wasn't under the tree? Get it now at the Apple Store," read one from Apple Inc.
Walmart was offering half off toys and Toys R Us touted buy one, get one half-off offers. At Sears, customers could find coats for 70 percent off while some jeans were $10. And Gap Inc.'s Old Navy brand was selling men's and women's jeans for $15 for the day and an e-mail encouraged shoppers to "redeem your gift cards today."
Gift card sales are not recorded until shoppers redeem them.
Retailers received a much-needed last-minute sales surge in the final days before Dec. 25, fueled by shoppers who delayed buying, waited for bigger discounts that never came or were slowed by last weekend's big East Coast snowstorm.
But now they're counting on the days after Christmas to perk up overall holiday sales in a season that looks like it's modestly better than last year's disaster.
The full holiday picture won't be known until merchants report December sales Jan. 7. But most expect merchants' fourth-quarter profits should be intact because they didn't press the panic button.
ShopperTrak is sticking to its prediction for a 1.6 percent gain, compared with a 5.9 percent drop a year ago.
The National Retail Federation expects that total retail sales will slip 1 percent, though some experts say that might be a bit too cautious. A year ago, they fell 3.4 percent by the trade group's calculations.
Posted by Front Page News at 1:06 PM
Friday, December 25, 2009
Van Stone, “Courtfighter,” And Diane White Ignite A First Amendment Debate On Christmas Day 2009: At FPN by James Sullivan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Van Stone, “Courtfighter,” And Diane White Ignite A First Amendment Debate On Christmas Day 2009: At Phila. Front Page News by James Sullivan, email@example.com
Above: Image representing the symbol of the
feeling of court comfort because our judges
have deep honor of the Bill of Rights.
Courtfighter is a real nonprofit group, launched on December 25, 2009 by a Pennsylvania organization, that advocates nationally for civil liberties in courts.
Van Stone, President and Founder of the Van Stone Productions (VSP) Foundation, Inc., is a real life courtfighter based on the legend that like a firefighter he has almost single handedly brought national awareness that each year commonwealth courts kill people and destroy property. Certain people who have followed the Stone family drama know that each year fires kill people and destroy property. Therefore, these days, going to court and fighting a fire feels like, just about, doing the same thing. “If you ask me,” says Stone, “there is really no difference between learning a lot about how fires get started and how they spread, and learning about how court cases get started and how they spread.”
“If a fiery situation ignites at your feet, the foot of your bed, at the feet of your children, or at the foot of your house, you have to learn how to fight fire with fire. Or else, you are done. And there is no escape,” says Stone.
Stone, has been fighting in court since 2002 as he unexpectedly ended up in Media Delaware County Court for the first time when he was 40 years old.
At the time, Stone, whose complete legal name is "Samuel 'Van Stone' Downing", had to face the fear of Media Court Judges’ arrogance, power, and racially motivated dictatorial rulings.
Legend has it that the judges ruthlessly snatched the innocent, first born, 4-year-old daughter, Cheyenne Samara Downing and first son, 1 year old, Samson Dakota Downing from him with a signed order that permitted the judges to ensure that the children and Stone would never see each other again. The judges were not satisfied with the children having a father who was a good provider and had the reputation of being kind-hearted to most people he met. The judges let the children remain in spiritual poverty and emotional suffering as they had the misfortune of being raised by their twisted hearted mother who had given birth to them in an honorable marriage to Stone. Stone who had filed for divorce from his wife had married in 1996. The courts did not act fairly in the matter of Stone’s filing for divorce either.
The court's goal was to leave Stone broke and penniless after such a hurricane-like marriage to his estranged wife. Stone had worked hard to leave a life of poverty. He earned $20,000 to buy his new bride and children a home in historic East Lansdowne, Pennsylvania. In the end, the courts would not stand for it that such a person with the background like Stone’s humble beginnings would move on up to live in a very nice house in the suburbs.
The court's action has prompted community leaders such as Diane White from Harrisburg, PA to help form a committee to clarify court guidelines, and a group of concerned government leaders to introduce a resolution that would do away with court guidelines deemed invasive.
“VSP Foundation’s Courtfighter is committed to upholding its long-standing commitment to the free exchange of ideas online and elsewhere. It's also committed to promoting an environment that encourages dialogue, debate and peaceful assembly and protest among Courtfighter Friends and members of the community,” says Van Stone.
What Courtfighter is doing is a useful service … to bring issues into the open.
A Courtfighter goal is to forbid court expressions of hostility against people based on characteristics such as race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or socio-economic status. This would also include altering evidence with the intent to impede, obstruct, and influence the decision. Another goal would be to quickly alarm administrators that court officials have been involved in tampering, destroying evidence. Court administrators would also be held accountable if ever proven that scheduled hearings were intentionally delayed or unscheduled as things of this sort are not permitted by the courts.
A courtfighter helps the individual in court to speak up if they understand that a judge should have recused himself or herself from a case because the civil court personally affected him or her.
Since the courtfighter primarily deals with Court of Common Pleas, Family Court matters, he or she fight to insure that the judge cannot deny a person, (the defendant), with a violation of a Protection From Abuse PFA Order, freedom solely because of the gravity of his or her original offense, but must provide some evidence (make contact and not non-contact, an exparte) to the court, district attorney, public defender, adult probation officer, and the defendant that the defendant poses a threat (causes fear) to the plaintiff if the PFA expired. And the courtfighter wants to legally establish that if any judge is found doing so the defendant should made aware that what the judge has done is not permitted.
And the courtfighter primarily deals with instances where the judge has made a non-contact (exparte) order, ignoring that the district attorney must show that a violator of a PFA remains a threat (causes fear) to the plaintiff. Because what the judge has done is not permitted.
In addition, a courtfighter informs the defendant about Exculpatory evidence as defined on the web:
Exculpatory evidence is the evidence favorable to the defendant in a criminal trial, which clears or tends to clear the defendant of guilt. This is evidence that tends to show the innocence of an accused person. unless the proponent lost or destroyed them (making the defendant concerned with both the possible bad faith on the part of the judge and with the ultimate accuracy of the available evidence) in bad faith;
Parties may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, which is relevant to the subject matter involved in the pending action.
Once (the court) they have it in their possession and they see everything and they should have consulted (the defender) you before they got rid of the originals. And they may have been useless to the defendant. But until the (trial judge and the defendant) we know what was in the originals we cannot presume it wasn't doctored (altered).
As a courtfighter Stone is challenging three behaviors in total.
Stone calls Media Court an "institution for having many guidelines that both clearly and substantially kills freedom of speech and liberty, and the right to live a normal life.”
"Diane White and I, and even others, must continue to show the meaning to include the real life need of men and women who would work to prevent and control court disasters," Stone said. "Men and women should assist in keeping courts clean and in working order. Men and women would learn ways to rescue people trapped in courts. They are Courtfighters who also might teach the public, train others and keep in good health like Firefighters do," he said.
What is true is that most people young and old alike know what a firefighter does. Today, many people need to become aware as to what a Courtfighter could do. Courtfighter is a foundation for individual rights in courts. The Philadelphia Front Page News would be glad to help if you had a problem in court, any court, especially in Media Courthouse, and feel something should be done about it. Realistic stories like the Legend of court fighter Stone are heard about where as many judges have misused all the court forces combined in order to keep many cases going forward insanely.
You can visit the Phila. Front Page News at www.frontpagenews to take action, support court fighters, submit a case, or simply volunteer to become a Courtfighter Friend. For more information go to www.frontpagenews.us and click on the symbol of justice at the newspaper’s left hand side of the website. Or Email Diane White at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by Front Page News at 4:50 PM
Obamas Send Christmas Greetings To Troops In Joint Weekly Address
WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama offered Christmas wishes to the nation on Thursday, including a special thanks for the U.S. military. They urged Americans to help support military families this holiday season.
In his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama said serving as commander in chief has been his greatest honor as president. He saluted the "selfless spirit" of those who serve and said he has been "humbled, profoundly" by those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
"So to all our men and women in uniform spending the holidays far from home -- whether it's at a base here in the states, a mess hall in Iraq or a remote outpost in Afghanistan -- know that you are in our thoughts and our prayers," the president said in a message released two days early because of Christmas. "And this holiday season -- and every holiday season -- know that we are doing everything in our power to make sure you can succeed in your missions and come home safe to your families."
Mrs. Obama recalled her visits with "military spouses doing the parenting of two" to keep their households together.
"But even these strong military families can use a hand, especially during the holidays," she said, her first time sharing the president's weekly address. "If you live near a military base, you can reach out through your workplaces, your schools, your churches.
"There are so many ways to help -- with child care, with errands, or by just bringing over a home-cooked meal," Mrs. Obama said.
For service members serving around the world, the president added that kids can send greeting cards and adults can send care packages or prepaid phone cards. He directed listeners to the White House Web site "for more ways to let our troops know you care."
Even in these tough economic times, Obama said, there's still much to celebrate this Christmas, including the birth of Jesus.
"The love family and friends. The bonds of community and country. And the character and courage of our men and women in uniform who are far from home for the holidays, away from their families, risking their lives to protect ours," he added.
Obama left the White House Thursday morning, along with his wife and their daughters, Malia and Sasha, for the family's traditional Christmas vacation in Hawaii, where he was born.
Posted by Front Page News at 2:02 PM
Senate bill could hurt insurers at least initially
|President Barack Obama, accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden, speaks in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 24, 2009, after the Senate passed the health care reform bill.|
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Health insurers get some big presents in the Senate's health overhaul bill - about 20 million new customers and no competition from a new government plan.
Taking advantage of those boons might take some time, though.
The bill imposes hefty new taxes and coverage rules that will pinch insurers by forcing them to cover more sick people without gaining enough healthy, lower-cost customers, industry insiders say. The industry is also worried the bill doesn't do enough to control health care costs.
It's a matter of figuring out how to make those new customers profitable, analysts say.
"There's opportunity," Miller Tabak analyst Les Funtleyder said. "Where the rubber meets the road is can you access that opportunity? At least some of them will figure out how to do it."
The Senate bill is much more favorable to insurers than a similar bill passed in the House that contains a government-run option for consumers seeking individual insurance, something insurers have fought hard. They worry that a government-run plan that sets rates below market prices would pose unfair competition.
Though the Senate bill still has to be reconciled with the House bill, most observers believe the government-run plan, often called a "public option," will disappear because it lacks Senate support.
Both bills call for the creation of insurance exchanges that help people buy coverage. Insurers likely will lose money on business from those exchanges, said Robert Laszewski, a former insurance executive and president of Health Policy and Strategy Associates, a Virginia-based health care consultant.
It's a tradeoff: People without insurance would be required to buy it - in some cases, subsidies will help them pay for it - or face fines if they don't. Insurers, in turn, would no longer be able to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions such as diabetes or cancer.
But the proposed fines are too weak and the subsidies too meager to truly motivate people to buy insurance, Laszewski said. This means the people most motivated to buy coverage through these exchanges will be those who already have health problems - who are money losers for insurers.
Insurers need a mix of healthy people enrolled in their coverage to help balance out claims they pay for patients who use more insurance.
The Senate bill calls for fines for people who do not purchase coverage and are not exempt from a mandate to buy it. They start at $95 in 2014 and rise to $750 by 2016.
That's a lot more affordable than what some people would pay for insurance. A sliding scale of subsidies will help people or families with incomes up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or $88,200 for a family of four this year. But a family of four with income of $65,000 would still have to pay nearly 10 percent of that income, or $6,500, toward coverage.
"There aren't a lot of families with an extra $6,500 in their checking account," Laszewski said. "The problem with this bill is the subsidies are really quite modest, and there really aren't any penalties."
An ideal bill for insurers, he said, would pair better subsidies for the uninsured with higher penalties that motivate people to buy coverage and get more healthy people into the risk pools.
The Senate bill hurts managed care companies in other ways. Insurers use a person's age and other variables to figure out the price of an individual insurance policy. Older people often have to pay more because they tend to generate more claims. But the Senate bill limits how much more insurers can charge for older customers.
That means people under age 30 likely will see a "substantial increase" in the cost of a policy - making them less inclined to buy insurance - while older people will see a smaller decrease, said Brad Fluegel, chief strategy and external affairs officer for WellPoint Inc., the nation's largest health insurer based on membership.
The Senate bill also calls for the industry to pay annual fees for the plan that start at $2 billion in 2011 and increase to $10 billion by 2017. Analysts say costs like these will be passed to consumers because insurers want to protect profit margins, which are generally thinner than other health care companies like drugmakers.
"I think we're going to be discussing health care reform continuously for the next several years as we try to fix all the things that are broken with this existing bill," Fluegel said.
Added up, insurers say the bill would mean higher premiums for consumers and likely for employers who buy coverage. And that's on top of hikes spurred by rising medical care.
The stock market no longer seems worried. Shares of the five largest managed care companies have risen more than 120 percent, on average, since they bottomed out in early March. In contrast, the Standard & Poor's 500 index has increased about 63 percent over the same span.
Investors had big worries when the debate picked up steam last spring, but stocks started climbing as they realized "doomsday scenarios" such as a government takeover would not happen, Funtleyder said.
He thinks insurers will learn to live with the overhaul and eventually benefit from it. They should be able to adjust their prices to accommodate taxes, fees and the new regulations once they understand the claims their exchange customers will generate.
"It's kind of tricky, at least in the beginning."
Posted by Front Page News at 1:48 PM
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Father and son reunited in Brazil, head back to US
|Sean Goldman 9, arrives at the U.S. Consulate in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, hugging his Brazilian stepfather, Joao Paulo Lins e Silva, Thursday, Dec. 24, 2009. The man in the suit at right is the family's attorney Sergio Tostes. David Goldman's bitter five-year battle to regain custody of his son neared conclusion Wednesday, when the child's Brazilian family halted its legal efforts as a court-ordered deadline for delivering the boy loomed. Goldman has said repeatedly that until he is on a plane heading to the U.S. with 9-year-old Sean at his side, he would not feel relief. But with a court ordering the boy's handover Thursday morning at the U.S. Consulate, the end appeared to be in sight.|
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) -- A New Jersey man and his 9-year-old son were reunited Thursday in Brazil after a five-year international custody battle, and immediately headed home to spend the holidays in the U.S.
"It is now time for our new beginning, the rebirth of our family at such a special time of the year," Goldman wrote in a letter that was read to reporters by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith after the father and son's plane took off.
Smith said Goldman and his son left on a private jet chartered by the U.S. news channel NBC, which took off shortly before noon.
"Today the abduction has ended," Smith said.
Sean's arrival at the U.S. Consulate earlier Thursday was tumultuous, with his Brazilian relatives passing on U.S. officials' offer to use a secured entrance to a garage. Instead they parked a block away and walked the boy, wearing a Brazilian Olympics T-shirt, through scores of reporters, cameramen and security guards. Violent shoving broke out in front of the consulate's doors as the boy was spirited inside.
"I was disappointed to see him paraded through the streets," Smith said.
Once inside the consulate, however, Smith said the boy calmed down, ate a hamburger and talked with his father about basketball and how much snow there might be in New Jersey.
"Once he was with his dad they were smiling, with their arms around one another," Smith said. "They looked just like best buddies."
Goldman, of Tinton Falls, New Jersey, fought a long battle against one of Rio's best known legal families to regain custody of his son.
Sean had lived in Brazil since Goldman's ex-wife, Bruna Bianchi, brought him to her native country for what was supposed to be a two-week vacation in 2004. She stayed, divorced Goldman and remarried, and Goldman began legal efforts to get Sean back.
After Bianchi died last year in childbirth, her husband, Joao Paulo Lins e Silva, a prominent divorce attorney, continued the legal fight and won temporary custody.
His maternal grandmother, Silvana Bianchi, was in tears as she walked toward the consulate and said simply: "This is a very difficult moment."
Later, she told ABC's "Good Morning America" that Sean was "very sad" and didn't want to leave.
"He has the right to speak and to explain himself, but the judge here cut his right," Bianchi said.
On Tuesday, Brazil's Supreme Court chief justice upheld a lower court's ruling that ordered Sean returned to Goldman. The Brazilian family said Wednesday it was ending its legal battles to retain custody, and a federal court ordered Sean delivered to the U.S. Consulate Thursday morning.
Goldman said this week that if he won, he would let the Brazilian family visit.
But now, he said, it's time for Sean's U.S. relatives to get to know the boy.
"Please know that my love and the rest of Sean's family's love for him knows no boundaries," he wrote in his letter. "We will go to the ends of the Earth to protect him and shower him with every ounce of love that we have."
Associated Press writers Tales Azzoni in Sao Paulo and Geoff Mulvihill in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, contributed to this report.
Posted by Front Page News at 1:37 PM
Senate OKs health care measure, reaching milestone
|Victoria Kennedy, widow of Sen. Ted Kennedy hugs Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev. on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 24,2009, as Sen. Banking Committee Chairman Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn, looks on at center, after the Senate passed the health care reform bill.|
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senate Democrats passed a landmark health care bill in a climactic Christmas Eve vote that could define President Barack Obama's legacy and usher in near-universal medical coverage for the first time in the country's history.
"We are now finally poised to deliver on the promise of real, meaningful health insurance reform that will bring additional security and stability to the American people," Obama said shortly after the Senate acted.
"This will be the most important piece of social legislation since Social Security passed in the 1930s," said Obama, standing with Vice President Joe Biden in the State Room of the White House.
The 60-39 vote on a cold winter morning capped months of arduous negotiations and 24 days of floor debate. It also followed a succession of failures by past congresses to get to this point. Biden presided as 58 Democrats and two independents voted "yes." Republicans unanimously voted "no."
An exhausted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., initially cast a "no" vote by mistake, then quickly corrected himself as fellow senators burst out laughing.
The tally far exceeded the simple majority required for passage.
The Senate's bill must still be merged with legislation passed by the House before Obama could sign a final bill in the new year. There are significant differences between the two measures but Democrats say they've come too far now to fail.
Both bills would extend health insurance to more than 30 million more Americans. Obama said the legislation "includes the toughest measures ever taken to hold the insurance industry accountable."
Deputy White House press secretary Bill Burton, speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One as Obama flew to Hawaii, said the House and Senate versions were "95 percent similar."
"We're going to be actively working to iron out the rest of the differences and get a bill passed and signed," Burton said.
Vicki Kennedy, the widow of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., who made health care reform his life's work, watched the vote from the gallery. So did Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., the longest-serving House member and a champion of universal health care his entire career.
"This morning isn't the end of the process, it's merely the beginning. We'll continue to build on this success to improve our health system even more," Reid said before the vote. "But that process cannot begin unless we start today ... there may not be a next time."
At a news conference a few moments later, Reid said the vote "brings us one step closer to making Ted Kennedy's dream a reality."
The Nevadan said that "every step of this long process has been an enormous undertaking."
Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Finance Committee, said he "very happy to see people getting health care they could not get."
It was the Senate's first Christmas Eve vote since 1895, when the matter at hand was a military affairs bill concerning employment of former Confederate officers, according to the Senate Historical Office.
After the vote Obama offered congratulations in phone calls to Vicki Kennedy and Reid, Baucus and other senators, including 92-year-old Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., who was brought to the Senate in a wheelchair.
The House passed its own measure in November. The White House and Congress have now come further toward the goal of a comprehensive overhaul of the nation's health care system than any of their predecessors.
The legislation would ban the insurance industry from denying benefits or charging higher premiums on the basis of pre-existing medical conditions, beginning in 2014 in the Senate version, and 2013 in the House measure. The Congressional Budget Office predicts the bill will reduce deficits by $130 billion over the next 10 years, an estimate that assumes lawmakers carry through on hundreds of billions of dollars in planned cuts to insurance companies and doctors, hospitals and others who treat Medicare patients.
For the first time, the government would require nearly every American to carry insurance, and subsidies would be provided to help low-income people to do so. Employers would be induced to cover their employees through a combination of tax credits and penalties. The legislation costs nearly $1 trillion over 10 years and is paid for by a combination of taxes, fees and cuts to Medicare.
Republicans were withering in their criticism of what they deemed a budget-busting government takeover. If the measure were worthwhile, contended Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., "they wouldn't be rushing it through Congress on Christmas Eve."
House Minority Leader John Boehner assailed the bill moments after passage.
"Not even Ebenezer Scrooge himself could devise a scheme as cruel and greedy as Democrats' government takeover of health care," the Ohio Republican said in a statement.
"Sen. Reid's health care bill increases premiums for families and small businesses, raises taxes during a recession, cuts seniors' Medicare benefits, adds to our skyrocketing debt, and puts bureaucrats in charge of decisions that should be made by patients and doctors," he said.
The occasion was moving for Sen. Paul Kirk, D-Mass., appointed to fill Kennedy's seat after his death in August.
"He's having a merry Christmas in heaven," Kirk told reporters after the tally. He said he was "humbled to be here with the honor of casting essentially his vote."
Said Dingell: "This is for me, this is for my dad, this is for the country." Dingell's father, John Dingell Sr., labored for health care legislation when he served in Congress from the 1930s until his death in 1955.
Reid nailed the last votes down in a rush of dealmaking in the last week that is now coming under attack because of special provisions obtained by a number of senators. In Nebraska, home to conservative Democrat Ben Nelson, the Democrats' crucial 60th vote, the federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost of a planned Medicaid expansion in perpetuity, the only state getting that deal.
Negotiations between the House and Senate to reconcile differences between the two bills are expected to begin as soon as next week. The House bill has stricter limits on abortion than the Senate, and unlike the House, the Senate measure omits a government-run insurance option, which liberals favored to apply pressure on private insurers but Democratic moderates opposed as an unwarranted federal intrusion. Obama has signaled he will sign a bill even if it lacks that provision.
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