Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Constitution In Jeopardy

Opinion Journal

Trash the 'Compact'
An attempt to circumvent the Electoral College is really an urban power grab.

BY PETE DU PONT
Monday, August 28, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT

For more than 200 years America has chosen its presidents as the Constitution provides: through the Electoral College. Traditionally, each state has cast its electoral votes--equal to its total representation in Congress--for the candidate who receives the most votes statewide.

But last week the California Senate passed legislation to award the state's Electoral College votes to the candidate who has received the most popular votes nationally--whether Californians chose him or not. A similar bill passed the Assembly on May 30, so it will soon be up to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign or veto the bill. Such a bill also passed the Colorado Senate in April, part of a national to change the way we choose our presidents. The mandate doesn't take effect until enough other states sign on to provide a majority of electoral votes. If it were in effect in 2004, George W. Bush would have taken California's 55 electoral votes, even though John Kerry carried the state by a margin of nearly 10%.

It is an odd idea, an "interstate compact" switching the Electoral College votes of member states from their state's vote winner to the national vote winner. And the direct election of presidents would be a political, electoral, and constitutional mistake that would radically change America's election system.

First, the direct election of presidents would lead to geographically narrower campaigns, for election efforts would be largely urban. In 2000 Al Gore won 677 counties and George Bush 2,434, but Mr. Gore received more total votes. Circumvent the Electoral College and move to a direct national vote, and those 677 largely urban counties would become the focus of presidential campaigns.

Rural states like Maine, with its 740,000 votes in 2004, wouldn't matter much compared with New York's 7.4 million or California's 12.4 million votes. Rural states' issues wouldn't matter much either; big-city populations and urban issues would become the focus of presidential campaigns. America would be holding urban elections, and that would change the character of campaigns and presidents.

Second, in any direct national election there would be significant election-fraud concerns. In the 2000 Bush-Gore race, Mr. Gore's 540,000-vote margin amounted to 3.1 votes in each of the country's 175,000 precincts. "Finding" three votes per precinct in urban areas is not a difficult thing, or as former presidential scholar and Kennedy advisor Theodore White testified before the Congress in 1970, "There is an almost unprecedented chaos that comes in the system where the change of one or two votes per precinct can switch the national election of the United States."

Washington state's 2004 governor's race was decided by just 129 votes. A judge found 1,678 illegal votes were cast, and it turned out that 1,200 more votes were counted in Seattle's King County than the number of people recorded as voting. This affected just Washington state, but in a direct national election where everything hangs on a small number of urban districts, such manipulations could easily decide presidencies.

Third, direct election would lead to a multicandidate, multiparty system instead of the two-party system we have. Many candidates would run on narrow issues: anti-immigration, pro-gun, environment, national security, antiwar, socialist or labor candidates, for they would have a microphone for their issues. Then there would be political power seekers--Al Sharpton or Michael Moore--and Hollywood pols like Barbra Streisand or Warren Beatty. Even Paris Hilton could advance her career through a presidential campaign.

For such candidates to run under the present system is very difficult, for they have to win state by state electoral votes. But if all you need is national fame and fortune to win popular votes, many candidates would run and presidential campaigns would become unfocused, confused, and about political advocacy instead of presidential substance.

Finally, direct election would also lead to weaker presidents. There are no run-offs in the Interstate Compact--that would require either a constitutional amendment or the agreement of all 50 states and the District of Columbia--so the highest percentage winner, no matter how small (perhaps 25% or 30% in a six- or eight-candidate field) would become president. Such a winner would not have an Electoral College majority and therefore not be seen as a legitimate president.

So rather that trying to eviscerate the Electoral College, we should be embracing it. It was put in the Constitution to allow states to choose presidents, for we are a republic based on the separation of powers, not a direct democracy. And the Electoral College--just like the Senate--was intended to protect the residents of small states. As James Madison said, the Electoral College included the will of the nation--every congressional district gets an electoral vote--and "the will of the states in their distinct and independent capacities" since every state gets two additional electors.

And might not the direct-election Interstate Compact lead to other similar efforts? California's Sen. Dianne Feinstein says the Electoral College violates "one person, one vote," and so we should have direct election of the president. But the equal allocation of two senators to each state also violates "one person, one vote." Montana, with 900,000 people, gets two senators and so does California with 34 million, so Feinstein's logic would say that California should have 12 senators, and Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont should share just one among them.

Might not "one person, one vote" allow a national vote to amend the Constitution instead of requiring approval by three-quarters of the states? To restrict freedom of speech, or expand searches and seizures, or modify any of the Bill of Rights?

One wonders if the direct election of presidents is really the beginning of an effort to bring national government under the control of large and liberal states. Common Cause, a Washington-based lobbying group that describes itself as "promoting open, honest and accountable government," argues "how neatly it fits with American tradition." But it doesn't. It contradicts our constitutional republic's state and federal government sharing of powers. Choosing presidents is one of our states' powers, and we should not remove it to begin a centralized national American government.

Mr. du Pont, a former governor of Delaware, is chairman of the Dallas-based National Center for Policy Analysis. His column appears once a month.

When I was younger, I thought the Electoral College was wrong and needed to be absolved. But as I read more history and The Federalist Papers I started to see why the Electoral College is needed. I do not agree with what Califoria is doing and I will fight it with tooth and nail if NC tries this.


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posted by David at 1:51 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (11) ::

Karr Won't Be Charged

News & Observer

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) - Prosecutors abruptly dropped their case Monday against John Mark Karr in the slaying of JonBenet Ramsey, saying DNA tests failed to put him at the crime scene despite his insistence he sexually assaulted and strangled the 6-year-old beauty queen.

Just a week and a half after Karr's arrest in Thailand was seen as a remarkable break in the sensational, decade-old case, prosecutors suggested in court papers that he was just a man with a twisted fascination with JonBenet who confessed to a crime he didn't commit.

"The people would not be able to establish that Mr. Karr committed this crime despite his repeated insistence that he did," District Attorney Mary Lacy said in court papers.

The 41-year-old schoolteacher will be kept in jail in Boulder until he can be sent to Sonoma County, Calif., to face child pornography charges dating to 2001. An extradition hearing was scheduled for Tuesday.

The district attorney vowed to keep pursuing leads in JonBenet's death: "This case is not closed."

Karr was never formally charged in the slaying. In court papers, Lacy defended the decision to arrest him and bring him back to the United States for further investigation, saying he might have otherwise fled and may have been targeting children in Thailand as well.

Lacy said Karr emerged as a suspect in April after he spent several years exchanging e-mails and later telephone calls with a University of Colorado journalism professor who had produced documentaries on the Ramsey case.

According to court papers, Karr told the professor he accidentally killed JonBenet during sex and that he tasted her blood after he injured her vaginally. But the Denver crime lab conducted DNA tests last Friday on a cheek swab taken from Karr and were unable to connect him to the crime.

"This information is critical because ... if Mr. Karr's account of his sexual involvement with the victim were accurate, it would have been highly likely that his saliva would have been mixed with the blood in the underwear," Lacy said in court papers.

She also said authorities found no evidence Karr was in Boulder at the time of the slaying. She said Karr's family provided "strong circumstantial support" for their belief that he was with them in Georgia, celebrating the Christmas holidays. JonBenet was found beaten and strangled at her Boulder home on Dec. 26, 1996.

Defense attorney Seth Temin expressed outrage that Karr was even arrested.

"We're deeply distressed by the fact that they took this man and dragged him here from Bangkok, Thailand, with no forensic evidence confirming the allegations against him and no independent factors leading to a presumption he did anything wrong," Temin said.

In an interview Monday with MSNBC, Gary Harris, who had been spokesman for the Karr family, said he knew the DNA would not match.

Karr has been "obsessed with this case for a long time. He may have some personality problems, but he's not a killer," Harris said. "He obsesses. He wanted to be a rock star one time. ... He's a dreamer. He's the kind of guy who wants to be famous."

Earlier this month, Ramsey family attorney Lin Wood pronounced Karr's arrest vindication for JonBenet's parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, who had long been suspected in the killing.

On Monday, the attorney said: "From day one, John Ramsey publicly stated that he did not want the public or the media to jump to judgment. He did not want the public or the media to engage in speculation, that he wanted the justice system to take its course."

Wood said he still has great confidence in the district attorney. Patsy Ramsey died of cancer in June.

JonBenet Ramsey's aunt, Pamela Paugh, said she was disappointed there won't be a prosecution of someone in the case, but added: "I think our justice system worked as it was supposed to."

"We asked the DA to do her thing. She did it," said Paugh, who is Patsy Ramsey's sister. "My disappointment came about the end of December 1996 when we didn't have the killer then. We've had 9 1/2 years of disappointment and waiting."

Nate Karr, John Karr's brother, said he was elated by the news. "We're just going to be celebrating with family," he said.

Colorado Gov. Bill Owens blasted prosecutors for wasting thousands of taxpayer dollars to bring Karr to Colorado given such a lack of evidence. The district attorney "should be held accountable for the most extravagant and expensive DNA test in Colorado history," he said.

Scott Robinson, a Denver attorney who has followed the case from the beginning, said prosecutors may now be back at square one in the JonBenet case. He said Karr may be charged with lying about his role in the case.

"Seems to me there should be some criminal consequences," he said. "He has cost the taxpayers an enormous amount of money."

Karr was arrested in Petaluma, Calif., in 2001 on charges of possessing child pornography but fled before he could be tried. Colorado authorities said that after the Boulder case against Karr was dropped, California officials asked that he be turned over to them for prosecution.

In court papers, prosecutors said Karr began exchanging e-mails with professor Michael Tracey in 2002, signing them "D" and later "Daxis." The meaning of "Daxis" was not immediately clear.

At first, Karr seemed to be just someone with an intense interest in the case, but he soon claimed responsibility for the crime, and provided more and more detail about that night, according to court papers. He claimed that he accidentally killed JonBenet during sexual activity that included temporarily asphyxiating her, prosecutors said.

He began telling his story in hopes of being included in a book Tracey was planning to publish, according to the court papers. Authorities eventually traced his calls and identified Daxis as Karr, prosecutors said.

"Are you asking me why I killed JonBenet? I don't see it that way," Karr wrote in a May 22 e-mail. "Her and I were engaging in a romantic and very sexual interaction. It went bad and it was my fault."

The DA's office late Monday provided hours of discussion and pages of grisly details from Karr's correspondence with professor Michael Tracey, who alerted authorities.

Karr described how he hung JonBenet with a rope and slowly strangled her to put her in a "dream-like state" before performing oral sex. He said he tasted her blood after the sex went too far and tried to revive her when he realized she was dead.

"I loved her so much and I am so sorry that she died in my arms," Karr wrote to the professor in May. "If anyone came close to screaming, it was I. ... 'Please don't leave me. I love you so much. Oh, babydoll, please come back to me!'"

During a July 15 telephone call with Tracey that lasted 100 minutes, Karr - going by the alias Daxis - said he placed a new "necklace around the throat of the child." The garrote was loosened and tightened, and JonBenet stopped breathing.

"Daxis explained again that due to the twitching of JonBenet he was concerned she might be brain dead but her body could continue to survive," according to a summary of the call in the 98-page arrest affidavit. "He did not want JonBenet to suffer, so he struck her in the head with a flashlight he brought with him."

The district attorney said there was no way to take a cheek swab from Karr without alerting him that he was under investigation, and that would have created an "unacceptable risk that he would flee."

Also, Karr was about to start a teaching job in Thailand, and in his correspondence began to describe an interest in several girls "in much the same terms that he had described his interest in JonBenet," Lacy said in court papers.

In a July 19 e-mail, Karr described feeling excited to have two 5-year-olds "flashing their hot little bellybuttons at me" and later how a "naked little foot felt so sexy in my hand."

Authorities confirmed he was involved with at least one of the girls, Lacy said.

---

Associated Press writers Chase Squires in Boulder, Sandy Shore in Denver, Harry R. Weber in Atlanta and Scott Lindlaw in San Francisco contributed to this report.


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posted by David at 1:49 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (1) ::

Monday, August 28, 2006

Wilmington Man Loses His Legs

WWAY TV 3

WILMINGTON -- An accident at Wilmington's WASTEC plant has cost a man both of his legs.

Officials say the man climbed onto a piece of machinery and fell in.

Ernesto Gonzalez, an employee at WASTEC was operating a bailer at the time. The machine is used to compact about 20 tons of recyclable goods, like cardboard and newspaper, each day.

Officials say Gonzalez climbed on top of the bailer, ignoring many warning signs and safety procedures. He then fell inside.

He triggered a sensor, automatically starting the machine, which then amputated both of Gonzalez's legs.

Officials say they'll now take extra precautions when training operators and will keep the bailer shut down for the next few days.


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posted by David at 11:26 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (0) ::

Schools In Columbus Not Making The Grade

The News Reporter

Because both local school systems have low-performing schools for the third consecutive year, there is the possibility that the N.C. Department of Public Instruction could send in advisory teams to help run things.

The Whiteville City Schools and the Columbus County Schools – called local education agencies (LEA) by state bureaucrats – both have campuses not meeting the standards of the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.

Both systems have one or more schools that continue to fail to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) in reading with NCLB.

Each school must meet a statewide goal set by the state in reading, as well as math. Each school, including all of its applicable subgroups of students, must meet these goals, which are raised every three years.

Locally, subgroups include students with disabilities, low-income students, white students, black students and Native American students.

There must be 40 or more students in a subgroup for it to count. A failing subgroup keeps the entire school from making AYP.

One subgroup’s continuing failure to make AYP keeps the entire school system from making AYP and this is what has happened to Columbus County and Whiteville.

With a third year looming of LEA Improvement, the state may decide that both systems will enter LEA Corrective Action, which can call for an advisory team to come in and help run the system and at the very least, a consultant coming in to offer options.

Whiteville and Columbus County have a lot of company. At least 17 other North Carolina LEA’s are entering the corrective action phase. That number could increase in October when the state finally releases its much-delayed math scores.

Nearly 40 percent the state’s school systems are in LEA Improvement with more on the way. As many as two-thirds of the systems are expected to be in LEA Improvement when the minimum test score goals in reading and math are raised in 2007-08.

In the city system, it has been Central Middle School that has kept the system in LEA Improvement based on reading and math scores. CMS, which itself is in School Improvement, made AYP this year, based solely on its reading scores. If its math scores aren’t up to par, it could lose that AYP status and push the school system into still another year of LEA Improvement.

It takes two years to go into School or LEA Improvement and two years to come out.

In the county schools, the LEA Improvement status is because of Nakina Alternative, Fair Bluff Elementary, Guideway Elementary, Tabor City Elementary, Tabor City Middle and Williams Township Elementary school.

Like Central Middle, Fair Bluff Elementary made AYP and awaits math scores to make sure.

All of the above listed schools are in School Improvement because one or more subgroups have been unable to make AYP.

Pending the October math scores, more county schools could enter School Improvement status.

NCDPI has a list of schools that need to be watched and are in danger of going into School Improvement. They are Acme-Delco Middle, Chadbourn Middle, Chadbourn Elementary, Hallsboro Middle, Edgewood Elementary and Whiteville Primary schools.

All of these schools have large subgroups that historically have difficulty working at grade level.

Statewide, only 60 percent of the public elementary and middle schools made AYP. That number is likely to decrease when the math scores are released.

Neither local system knows what NCDPI has in store.

“We haven’t heard anything definite,” said Columbus County Schools Superintendent Dan Strickland. “Nothing’s official yet.”

The state will most likely send full teams to the worst performing school systems.

“We may get a team, depending on the level we’re on,” Strickland said. Or it might be a consultant for one year.

With so many school systems in LEA Improvement, the state only has so many teams and consultants it can assign LEAs.

Strickland said that a consultant would act as a guide for “the direction we need.”

He said that a visiting team last spring from NCDPI was “pleased” with the county’s strategic planning that focused on more staff development.

When Columbus County first entered LEA Improvement, it had only weeks to develop its first strategic plan for moving out of LEA Improvement. The county has continued to build upon that initial plan. Already, it has held two summer academies for its principals.

The Whiteville City Schools has similar plans and academies in place.

“That team said we were on the right track to improve,” Strickland said.

Part of the county’s plan is to require its principals to make daily walkthroughs of every classroom.

Historically, most principals rarely visit their classrooms unless something special is going on or there is a discipline problem or “fire to put out.”

Strickland believes the walkthroughs will help.

If the city and county schools cannot pull themselves out of LEA Improvement, they could face the following actions:

They will have to inform parents of the district’s status. They might have to defer program funds or reduce administrative funds. They will have to align their instruction with the N.C. Standard Course of Study, something that both systems have already done.

Either system could see the State Board of Education replace local personnel.

The state could step in and remove the school system from local jurisdiction and establish an alternate governance structure for the school.

The state could also abolish the local school boards and even allow students to attend school in adjacent school districts.

Strickland said that neither system is sure of what might happen.

I'm not surprised at this. First things first, I don't like No Child Left Behind. It's a bad law that only makes bad schools worse. Second, I don't like NC's end of the year testing. Our schools do a great job in the eary grades, my 6 year old son learned to read, tell time and do math last year in kindergarten at Williams Township. Back when I was in kindergarten, we counted to 10, learned ABCs, played, took naps, played and played some more. But once a kid gets into the higher grades it's less learning what's needed and a nine month cram session for EOGs. A lot gets left out and that child misses out. Another thing is that not all kids are wired the same. So learn math and science easy but struggle at history and social studies. Another loves history and reading but dislikes math to the point that they almost refuss to learn it. But with NCLB, all these kids must be taught the same. Why? If a kid shows a natural mechanical ability, why not develop that. If a child has a nack at science then teach him the skills needed to develop that. One size fits all doesn't work. No matter what the PC crap of the day is, we are all different. We are all good at something, but that something varies from person to person. We need schools that put a child in a class that they will benefit from. Down the road we are going to need scientist as well as auto mechanics, we will need engineers as well as landscapers. White, black, indian it doesn't matter, teach the child not the ethnic subgroup.

Now onto the schools themselves, I want school vouchers. Our government attaches about $9,000 (national average) to each student each year. I want to send my kids to any school that I want. If I want to drive 45 miles to take my children to school that's my choice and I should be free to make it. My wife and I send our 2 oldest kids to Williams. I like the school and like a lot of the teachers there. Some are great and some are so so. Every year we have to get Whiteville to release them and then go before the county to pick them up. It shouldn't be this hard. WTS is filled to the max. Why because a lot of people do what we do and send their children there. We should have open enrollment in all our taxpayer funded schools, period. We should also have vouchers so that the tax money attached to my kids follows them to the school I decide to send them to, regardless if it's public, private, charter, magnate, vocational, etc.


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posted by David at 7:42 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (0) ::

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Local Home Schooling Success

WWAY TV 3

WILMINGTON -- She's a 12-year-old girl raising the eyebrows of fellow students and teachers at Cape Fear Community College.

Instead of going to middle school like most kids her age, Julia Nepper is taking a full college course-load.

Julia Nepper began reading at the young age of two. Her parents home-schooled her and now, still a youngster at 12 years old, Julia is taking on college.

Julia Nepper picks a seat in trigonometry class, her pink shoes swinging, not even touching the ground. Her book seems bigger than she is.

But Julia says college is not intimidating at all.

"It is pretty much the same except the people are taller and older," Julia said.

Julia's father, Richard Nepper, vividly remembers when he first noticed his toddler's intellectual talents.

Richard said, "When we drove into a Wal-Mart parking lot and she pointed at the sign at the top of the building and blurted out the word Wal-Mart."

So where will Julia go when she graduates community college at age 14?

"I want to go to UNCW and get a masters degree and then maybe go to Duke. And maybe get a Ph.D.," she said.


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posted by David at 9:18 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (0) ::

Wilmington May Get Another Ship To Tour

WWAY TV 3

WILMINGTON -- The world's first nuclear-powered ship could wind up in Wilmington. The Maritime Administration wants to decommission the NS Savannah and it's considering Wilmington as a possible site.

At 600 feet it's a ship that rivals the size of the Battleship North Carolina.

Government officials are thinking about bringing the NS Savannah to the Wilmington riverfront.

NS Savannah Senior Technical Advisor Erhard Koehler said, "Savannah is arguably one of the most beautiful ships that was built; it certainly would grace the waterfront for however long she's here."

The nuclear ship was originally launched in 1959 during the Eisenhower administration, demonstrating the peaceful and productive use of atomic power.

The Maritime Administration now wants to decommission the ship, literally taking out the empty reactor.

Koehler said, "Wilmington possesses certainly a nuclear infrastructure that's capable of doing this type of work, and it's one of the port cities that we're considering along the east coast."

It's not a done deal yet. Charleston, S.C. and Norfolk, Va. are also in the running for the decommissioning project.

It is a venture that could bring jobs to the area, as well as a significant addition to the skyline.

Southport resident and former Savannah crew member Joe Seelinger would love to have the ship so close to home.

"To get the Savannah down here, even temporarily, I think would be wonderful," Seelinger said.

When the decommissioning project is finished possible plans include turning the Savannah into a museum, much like the Battleship North Carolina.

The NS Savannah's active sailing life ended in 1971, that's when crews removed all of the nuclear fuel from the ship.

If done right, this is something I support. I enjoy touring old ships and subs.


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posted by David at 9:14 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (0) ::

NC To Get Tougher On DWIs

WWAY TV 3

RALEIGH -- North Carolina is getting tougher on drunken drivers.

Monday Gov. Mike Easley signed the Motor Vehicle Driver Protection Act into law. It limits a judge's discretion to find DWI suspects not guilty.

It also forces prosecutors to document their reasons for dismissing DWI cases.

The bill also has tougher penalties on suspects who hurt or kill someone while driving drunk.

If you would like to see the bill you can visit the N.C. General Assembly web site.

This is a new law I can live with. I don't mind people drinking, but I do have a problem with people driving drunk. At that point you are putting someone else at risk and that is wrong.


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posted by David at 9:12 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (0) ::

Uninsured Driver Yet To Pay Victim

WWAY TV 3

It's been a year and a half since a hit-and-run accident in Pender County put Laurie James in the hospital.

The accident shattered her foot and crushed her arm.

Authorities found Hermelindo Sanchez responsible for the accident and the courts ordered him to pay Laurie's uninsured medical expenses.

Laurie has never been able to collect a dime from Mr. Sanchez. She has had eight surgeries and spent over a month in the hospital recovering from an accident in April 2005.

She was hit head-on by a Camaro owned by Hermelindo Sanchez, who didn't have insurance.

Laurie's medical bills so far have run close to a quarter of a million dollars, and her uninsured motorist insurance has only picked up about half of the cost.

"It's overwhelming. I receive new bills every day," Laurie said. "He should come in and pay what my insurance does not pay, that's only right."

The courts agreed. They put Hermelindo on supervised probation and ordered him to pay for Laurie's uninsured medical expenses.

But after a year passed Laurie had yet to receive a single restitution payment.

"I'm sure if he doesn't come forth and start paying on some of these bills it's going to mess up my credit," Laurie said. "I don't make that kind of money."

Laurie called the probation office to find out where her money was and was shocked to learn Hermelindo had been taken off of supervised probation, and a judge had waived the order that he pay Laurie restitution.

Managers at the local probation office say they tried to reach Laurie last year to find out details on her medical expenses. They actually mailed her two letters looking for information and say they got no response.

Probation office supervisor Jean Walker said, "We try to be very sensitive to the needs of victims, and we make every effort possible to try and contact the victims. If we don't hear from them we may assume that there is no restitution owed."

Laurie says she's not sure what happened. She said between her medical ordeal, her wedding that had to be delayed because of the accident and filing insurance claims, she's had a lot going on.

She passed her paperwork on to her attorney, and thinks the letters from the probation office may have gotten lost in the shuffle.

But Laurie is in disbelief that failing to respond to a form letter could get Hermelindo off the hook. At this point Laurie's only remedy is to go after Hermelindo Sanchez in civil court.

But the fact is, $100,000 is a lot of money, and there's no guarantee that he could come up with the funds to pay her even if she won a judgment in court.

If you see this guy ask him when he plans on paying Laurie.


Photo from WWAY TV 3


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posted by David at 9:03 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (0) ::

IP Closes Acme-Delco Middle School

WWAY TV 3

RIEGELWOOD -- Acme-Delco Middle School was forced to close early Friday because of water issues.

International Paper in Riegelwood supplies water for that part of Columbus County. The company says too much demand was put on the system Friday morning and they had to shut down the potable water supply.

A water pipe that broke earlier this week contributed to the problem.

Officials say they are giving out water at the Riegelwood Shopping Center and that if you do need water out of the tap, you need to boil it.

Authorities expect to restore water service in some areas later Friday, but residents are still asked to conserve and boil water.

The water in the area is still not safe to drink. Bacteria tests have to be done 48 hours after it was cut on Friday to determine if it meets drinking standards.


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posted by David at 8:47 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (0) ::

Gaston Sheriff To Check Immigration Status Of Inmates

Charlotte.com

GASTONIA - Faced with a growing jail population of illegal immigrants, Gaston County Sheriff Alan Cloninger announced Friday that his department will join a federal program that allows local law enforcement officers to screen for illegal immigrants and place them in deportation proceedings.

The Gaston County Sheriff's Office will become the eighth law enforcement agency in the country to join the program.

Cloninger made the announcement at a congressional hearing in Gastonia on how local authorities can combat illegal immigration.

Details on the local program are still being worked out, but Cloninger said six deputies will be trained as certified federal immigration officers.

And, in 60 to 90 days, he said, the Gaston County Jail with begin using a federal database to check the immigration status of every foreign-born person arrested.

Those identified as illegal immigrants will be reported to immigration officials, and deportation proceedings would be started.

Glad to see a sheriff doing his duty.


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posted by David at 8:45 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (12) ::

Black's Campaign Gives $10,000 To Decker Defense

WRAL.com

POSTED: 6:51 pm EDT August 26, 2006

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- State House Speaker Jim Black's campaign paid $10,000 to the Winston-Salem law firm that represented a political ally who pleaded guilty this month to campaign finance violations, according to records reported Saturday by The Charlotte Observer.

Black's spending reports, which reflect two checks of $5,000 each sent to the firm, suggest the powerful Mecklenburg County Democrat was paying legal bills for former state Rep. Michael Decker.

"It looks bad, the fact that that money went to a law firm representing Decker," said state Sen. John Snow, D-Cherokee, who has called upon Black to resign. "Anybody would draw the inference that Black was helping take care of his legal expenses."

Black has denied offering or giving Decker anything in exchange for his support. Neither he nor David Freedman, the law firm partner who represents Decker, would comment on the checks. The newspaper could not reach Decker.

Decker pleaded guilty in federal court this month to taking $50,000 in campaign contributions and cash from an unidentified Democrat in exchange for supporting Black for speaker in 2003.

I guess Black really takes care of the people that take care of him even when they admit to breaking the law.


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posted by David at 8:37 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (0) ::

Judge Says No To Louisiana Video Game Ban

Wired.com

Associated Press 13:20 PM Aug, 26, 2006

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana -- A state law that would ban sales of violent video games to minors violates free speech rights and cannot be enforced, a judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge James Brady said the state had no right to bar distribution of materials simply because they show violent behavior. Brady issued an injunction, calling the law an "invasion of First Amendment rights" of producers, retailers and the minors who play the games.

"Depictions of violence are entitled to full constitutional protection," Brady wrote Thursday.

Louisiana is the latest in a string of states, including Minnesota, Illinois, California and Michigan, to have had similar bans blocked in the courts. A federal judge in Illinois this month ordered the state to pay more than $510,000 to three business groups -- including the Entertainment Software Association, a plaintiff in the Louisiana case -- for legal fees incurred in fighting a similar state law.

The association's president criticized Gov. Kathleen Blanco and state lawmakers for approving the law while struggling to recover from Hurricane Katrina.


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posted by David at 8:33 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (0) ::

Busy

I've not had time to post for the last week due to just a busy life. I've had a lot going on at work, not only with my regular job but with our mill's safety program that I'm a part of and we have contract negotiations going on. The wife, kids and I spent last weekend at the beach. We had a good time as always doing 2 of our favorite things, eating and swimming. Our fall soccer season is starting up. This year I'm heading up one team and helping with another. I just finished my practice planning for today. I hope to be back in full blogging swing ASAP.


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posted by David at 3:08 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (0) ::

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Charlotte Bound Woman Found With Explosives

Charlotte.com

A woman bound for Charlotte was detained for questioning at a West Virginia airport Thursday morning after two containers in her carry-on luggage tested positive for explosive material.

The concourse of Tri-State Airport in Ceredo, near Huntington, W. Va., was evacuated at 10:20 a.m. after the discovery, said Transportation Security Administration official Christopher White.

The woman's name and hometown have not been released, but airport manager Larry Salyers told the Associated Press that he was told the woman was 28-year-old native of Pakistan who had moved to Huntington from Jackson, Mich. The woman was connecting in Charlotte for a flight to Detroit, Salyers said.

The woman was scheduled for Charlotte on U.S. Airways 4168, which was scheduled to depart at 9:17 a.m. US Airways spokeswoman Valerie Wunder said flight 4168 left on time.

Flight 4236 from Charlotte to Huntington was canceled; flight 4363 from Charlotte to Huntingon was diverted to Charleston, W.Va.

Flight 4242 from Charlotte to Huntington will depart around 9 p.m. if the concourse is reopened, Wunder said.

A TSA screener noticed a bottle in the woman's carry-on bag as she prepared to board a flight to Charlotte. Four items were deemed suspicious, and two containers tested positive, said TSA's White.

The woman was detained for questioning, commercial airline service was temporarily suspended, and about 100 passengers and airport employees were ordered to leave the terminal.


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posted by David at 5:43 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (0) ::

Man Wants 45 Family Members At Execution

News & Observer

Death row inmate Samuel Flippen's request that his execution be delayed unless 45 family members can witness the event was denied Wednesday by the state appellate court.

A three-judge panel of the N.C. Court of Appeals rejected a petition filed by Flippen's attorneys that argued that Wake County Superior Court Judge J.B. Allen ignored state law that sets no limit on the number of family members who can witness an execution.

On Tuesday, Allen refused to delay Flippen's execution scheduled for 2 a.m. Friday. Flippen, 36, was convicted of first-degree murder by a Forsyth County jury in the 1994 beating death of his 2-year-old stepdaughter, Britnie Nichol Hutton.

A second petition for a temporary stay of execution was also denied Wednesday by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where Flippen's attorneys have challenged the constitutionality of an execution by lethal injection. Flippen's attorneys say they'll file an emergency petition with the U.S. Supreme Court requesting a stay but are uncertain whether to challenge the state appellate court's denial.

The setbacks narrow Flippen's chances of delaying his execution to the nation's highest court and a clemency request before Gov. Mike Easley that asks him commute the inmate's sentence to life in prison. Easley, a former prosecutor and state attorney general, took no action on the request Wednesday, said his press secretary, Sherri Johnson.

Flippen's petition before the state appellate court stems from a civil lawsuit filed in Wake County last week. The inmate's parents, Russell and Rita Flippen of Winston-Salem, joined their son and more than 40 other relatives in asking to witness his execution. That suit cites a state law governing executions that says "any relatives of such person, convict or felon ... may be present if they so desire."

Flippen's attorneys say Central Prison Warden Marvin Polk misread that law when he told Flippen in an Aug. 8 letter that it limits inmates to two family members as witnesses.

In his written ruling Tuesday, Allen said Polk was within his authority to limit the number of witnesses to executions. The judge also said he doubted the sincerity of the family members who joined the lawsuit.

"It's a stall tactic," said Ben Streett, Britnie Hutton's uncle.

Streett said the toddler's mother, Tina Gibson, and other family members will travel to Raleigh for the execution.

"This is not about Sammy Flippen, it's about Britnie," he said. "She's the victim, not Flippen."


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posted by David at 5:41 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (0) ::

NC Judge Lets Arsonist Go

WRAL

A man who confessed to setting 15 fires in three counties will not serve prison time.

A judge suspended Brian Wood's sentence and ordered him to pay restitution. He also has to undergo a psychiatric exam.

Wood pleaded guilty to setting fires in Cumberland, Sampson, and Harnett counties.

Authorities said the fires were set in April.

Why?


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posted by David at 5:40 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (0) ::

Arrest In JonBenet Ramsey Case

WRAL

Authorities think they've solved the nearly 10-year-old mystery of who killed 6-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey.

Police in Thailand said the man accused of murdering JonBenet claims he drugged the 6-year-old and had sex with her before accidentally killing her.

A general who heads Thailand's immigration police said he wasn't there when U.S. officials questioned John Karr, but that he was told what happened. According to the general, Karr claims the girl was still alive when he had sex with her, but then realized he "accidentally" killed her.

The autopsy on JonBenet showed no alcohol or drugs in her body, though it said she had vaginal abrasions.

The general didn't say who briefed him, and U.S. officials could not immediately be reached.

The child was found murdered in her home in Boulder, Colo., the day after Christmas in 1996. For a long time, her parents were identified by authorities as possible suspects.

Karr said publicly Thursday he was with the child when she died and called her death "an accident," a stunning admission that may help answer 10 years of questions in the unsolved murder case.

"I was with JonBenet when she died," John Mark Karr told reporters in Bangkok, visibly nervous and stuttering as he spoke. "Her death was an accident."

Police said Karr, a youthful-looking 41-year-old school teacher from Georgia, admitted to the killing after he was arrested Wednesday at his downtown Bangkok apartment by Thai and American authorities.

Asked if he was an innocent man, Karr said: "No."

Later, as he was escorted to his guesthouse by U.S. and Thai authorities to pick up his belongings, he told The Associated Press: "I am so very sorry for what happened to JonBenet. It's very important for me that everyone knows that I love her very much, that her death was unintentional, that it was an accident."

Asked what happened when JonBenet died, he said: "It would take several hours to describe that. It's a very involved series of events that would involve a lot of time. It's very painful for me to talk about it."

Karr, a divorced father of three boys, also said he wrote JonBenet's mother, Patsy Ramsey, before her death in June and told her "many things."

The head of Thailand's immigration police said Karr has told authorities that he had intended to kidnap JonBenet for a $118,000 ransom but that something went wrong and he strangled her. Patsy Ramsey reported finding a ransom note in the house.

Karr will be transported to Colorado, where he will face charges of murder, kidnapping and child sexual assault, said Ann Hurst, a U.S. official with the Department of Homeland Security.

Earlier Thursday, Lt. Gen. Suwat Tumrongsiskul told The Associated Press that Karr arrived in Bangkok on June 6 from Malaysia to look for a teaching job. The police officer said it was not clear whether he got a teaching position.

Suwat said Karr's visa had been revoked as an "undesirable person" given the accusations against him, and U.S. authorities are expected to take him to the United States in the next few days.

The Boulder prosecutor said there's still "much more work to be done" in the Ramsey investigation.

In a news conference Thursday where more questions went unanswered than answered, District Attorney Mary Lacy stressed that suspect John Karr is presumed innocent. She then said the same thing when asked if JonBenet's father is still considered a suspect.

Lacy was also asked if she's worried that Karr may be making a false confession. To that she said she "can't comment on the evidence."

Karr is under arrest in Thailand, and according to Lacy he had just started working there this week as a second grade teacher. She said Karr has traveled extensively since leaving the United States, and it took months to identify, locate and arrest him.

Attorney Gives Details

An attorney for the Ramseys is offering more details on the family's contacts with Karr.

Atlanta attorney Lin Wood said Karr tried to correspond with Patsy Ramsey in writing in the months before Patsy Ramsey died this year. He said Mrs. Ramsey didn't reply, but that she handed the information over to investigators, and that it helped link Karr to the case.

Wood is also disputing news reports that said Karr spent a Christmas at the Ramsey home. He said that's not true.

He said Karr has been sending a number of e-mails in recent months to a Colorado professor, in which he made statements about JonBenet's death. He said the e-mails were a key development in linking Karr to the murder.

Wood said authorities should be able to tell whether Karr has first-hand knowledge of the case. He said, "There is information about the murder that has never been publicly disclosed."

Karr's Family Says He Was Fascinated By Case

Long before his arrest, Karr had a deep fascination with JonBenet Ramsey, according to his family members.
John Mark Karr
SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images
John Mark Karr

His ex-wife, who lives in Petaluma, Calif., told a San Francisco TV station he often spent time reading up on the cases of Ramsey and of Polly Klaas, the Petaluma girl who was abducted and killed in 1993.

The Denver Post reported that Karr disappeared in 2001 when he and his wife divorced after his release from jail on child pornography charges.

Karr's father told the paper that while Karr was in college as an adult, a professor encouraged him to write a book about the Ramsey case after being impressed with a school paper. John Karr spoke with JonBenet's grandparents, but the Ramseys refused an interview, Wexford Karr said.

Wexford Karr said that until Wednesday's arrest, he had feared his son might have died.

An attorney for the Ramseys said Karr once lived near the family in Conyers, Ga., but the Ramseys moved to Colorado when JonBenet was a baby.

Ramsey Praises Arrest, But Keeps Mum On Specifics

John Ramsey said in a public statement Wednesday that his wife knew authorities "were close to making an arrest" before she died.

Ramsey declined to comment on the specifics surrounding the arrest. He told a Denver television station that wouldn't be proper, especially considering the experience of his family. Not long after the murder, authorities said Ramsey and his late wife, Patsy, were considered to be under an umbrella of suspicion in their daughter's death. The child beauty queen was found dead in their home.

Patsy Ramsey died of cancer in June, but the family said she did know that authorities were close to making an arrest.

John Ramsey praised prosecutors in Boulder for closing the case. And he said the hardest part "by far" of all the family has been through was losing JonBenet.

The seemingly out-of-the-blue arrest has relatives and even a former prosecutor surprised.

JonBenet's aunt said that while the arrest was "a long time in coming," she said it still came as "quite a shock."

Pamela Paugh also dismissed the suspect's claims that he loved JonBenet. Paugh points out that she also loved the girl -- but never did her any harm.

Former Boulder Deputy District Attorney Trip DeMuth was also caught off-guard by the arrest -- and he knew the investigation was under way. DeMuth figured it would be like past investigations that never panned out.

DeMuth and Paugh agree investigators were too focused on JonBenet's parents and brother as suspects. The ex-prosecutor said some had "blinders on" that kept them from following the evidence.

Patsy Ramsey Knew Arrest Was Near

Patsy Ramsey died in June of ovarian cancer. John Ramsey said in a public statement Wednesday that his wife knew authorities "were close to making an arrest" before she died.

Patsy Ramsey always maintained that she found a ransom note on a back staircase demanding $118,000 for her daughter's return. John Ramsey said he discovered the body in the basement eight hours later.

A grand jury investigated the case but returned with no indictments. In December 2003, after investigators obtained a new DNA sample, a federal judge in Atlanta concluded that the evidence suggested an intruder killed JonBenet.

JonBenet and Patsy are both buried in Cobb County, Ga.

Tracked Online By Boulder Police

According to law enforcement officials, Karr was tracked online by Boulder police.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, federal officials told The Associated Press that Karr had been communicating with somebody in Boulder, who was cooperating with police.

A spokesman for the University of Colorado, Barrie Hartman, confirmed that journalism professor Michael Tracey communicated with Karr over several months and contacted police.

An attorney for Ramsey's family said the family had given authorities information about the man, but would not say how they knew him.

Officials told the AP that Karr was arrested Wednesday morning at 8 a.m. (EDT) in Bangkok, Thailand, where he's being held on unrelated sex charges. Boulder, Colo., District Attorney Mary Lacy confirmed the arrest, which she called the result of a "focused and complex investigation," but did not confirm details about the suspect.

Globe-Trotting Teacher?

Karr's resume painted a portrait of a globe-trotting elementary school teacher who is good with children.
This resume was posted on a Web site for teachers seeking jobs.
His mission statement said:

To provide excellence in education that develops academic and technological skills, instills strong values of superior character, develops interpersonal skills and nurtures leadership qualities amongst students to prepare them for a successful future with the expectation that such an education will result in a student of superior poise.

The resume listed places of employment in Honduras; Costa Rica; Germany; Heemstede, Netherlands; and Seoul, Korea.

It also said that Karr is "world travelled," having visited places such as London; Paris; Amsterdam; Zurich; Milan; Bologna; Stuttgart; Munich; Sydney, Australia; Taipei; Singapore; and Istanbul, among others.

The job list also noted his responsibilities at each of those positions. In Germany, Karr said that he taught English to two girls, ages 5 and 8, and a 10-year-old boy. He said that he awoke the children in the mornings and fed them breakfast. He also said that he helped the children get ready for school and "made sure the children had their evening bath, then put them to bed and read to them before they went to sleep."

The man also claimed to have worked at some of the "most prestigious schools in the United States."


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posted by David at 5:25 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (1) ::

Update On 3 Men With 1,000 Phones

Techdirt

Some good news came for the three Palestinian-American men arrested in Michigan, basically for having 1,000 prepaid cell phones: they won't be charged with any terrorism-related offenses. The bad news: they've been hit with federal fraud charges instead. The guys' business plan was pretty straightforward: buy subsidized prepaid phones, then get them unlocked so they could work with any compatible provider, then sell them for a higher price. Prosecutors allege the men's actions represent an attempt to defraud prepaid provider Tracfone, phone manufacturer Nokia and the public by trafficking in counterfeit goods. While unlocking phones, particularly for resale, annoys mobile operators, it's not abundantly clear how doing so represents fraud, nor how unlocking the phones makes them counterfeit, and it's not clear at all why doing so is illegal, though Tracfone and other providers apparently make the bizarre claim that it's copyright infringement. In any case, it seems like any potential legal problems here would be of a civil nature, and not worthy of federal fraud and money-laundering charges. Somehow, you get the feeling somebody doesn't want to admit the arrest and subsequent treatment of these guys was nothing other than a big mistake.


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posted by David at 4:50 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (0) ::

Federal Judge Says No to NSA Wiretapping

Free Speech Coalition

The National Security Agency (NSA) will no longer be able to conduct domestic eavesdropping, according to a ruling by federal judge Anna Diggs Taylor, who said the Bush administration’s actions contravened a range of constitutional provisions, including the right to free speech, protections against unreasonable searches and separation of powers.

In a 44-page decision, Taylor ruled in favor of a host of plaintiffs that included the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Associated Press, who filed suit to challenge the constitutionality of the government program that conducted surveillance on American citizens without judicial oversight.


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posted by David at 4:48 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (0) ::

Friday, August 11, 2006

Update: Fort Johnston

I posted a while back that a church group wanted to turn Fort Johnston into a homeless shelter. Although I advocate turning closed military bases into homeless camps where they can live and work to maintain the site and grow their own food, I did not think that this historic fort fit that bill. Well I'm glad to say that the fort is being turned over to Southport. The town hasn't set anything in stone yet but they plan on making it a public historic site.


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posted by David at 3:07 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (0) ::

'Be a man, get a job'

This is a reprint of a letter to the editor that appeared in the Star News 2006-08-08.

Editor: I still believe in our country, heart and soul, but I am about ready to give up on some of our male citizens, yes 30 to 54, who are opting out of work, according to a recent Star News article. One of these men "could not find a job that, in his view, was neither demanding or underpaid."

What kind of a country do we have when healthy, able men - many of them married - would rather sit home (than) act like real men? To compound this complete rejection of manhood, we are paying taxes so our government can help support these bums! How can anyone call himself a man when he is content to have his wife work (and) is unwilling to make any effort at all to support his wife and family?

Thor Ronningen
Wilmington

I agree completely with Mr. Ronningen. That's the problem with a welfare state that makes it to easy to obtain benefits with little enforcement of the rules.


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posted by David at 2:50 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (2) ::

Plot Thwarted

ABC News

LONDON Aug 10, 2006 (AP)— British authorities said Thursday they had thwarted a terrorist plot to simultaneously blow up several aircraft heading to the U.S. using explosives smuggled in carry-on luggage. Britain's Home Secretary John Reid said 21 people had been arrested in London, its suburbs and in Birmingham, including the alleged "main players" in the plot.

Huge crowds formed at security barriers at London's Heathrow airport as officials searching for explosives barred nearly every form of liquid outside of baby formula.

Officials raised security to its highest level in Britain and banned hand-carried luggage on all trans-Atlantic flights.

The extreme measures at a major international aviation hub sent ripple effects throughout the world. Heathrow airport was closed to most flights from Europe.

The U.S. government responded by raising its threat alert to its highest level for commercial flights from Britain to the United States amid fears the plot had not been completely crushed. The alert for all flights coming or going from the United States was also raised slightly.

You can read the rest in the extended section.

In Washington, two U.S. counterterrorism officials said the terrorists had targeted United, American and Continental airlines. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

A U.S. intelligence official said the plotters had hoped to target flights to major airports in New York, Washington and California, all major summer tourist destinations.

Britain's Home Secretary John Reid said 21 people had been arrested in London, its suburbs and in Birmingham following a lengthy investigation, including the alleged "main players" in the plot. Searches continued in a number of locations.

The suspects were "homegrown," though it was not immediately clear if they were all British citizens, said a police official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case. Police were working closely with the South Asian community, the official said.

The official said the plotters intended to simultaneously target multiple planes bound for the United States.

"We think this was an extraordinarily serious plot and we are confident that we've prevented and attempt to committee mass murder on an unimaginable scale," Deputy Commissioner Paul Stephenson said.

Prime Minister Tony Blair, vacationing in the Caribbean, briefed President Bush on the situation overnight, Blair's office said. There was no immediate public reaction from the White House. Bush is spending a few days at his ranch near Crawford, Texas.

It is the first time the red alert level in the Homeland Security warning system has been invoked, although there have been brief periods in the past when the orange level was applied. Homeland Security defines the red alert as designating a "severe risk of terrorist attacks."

"We believe that these arrests (in London) have significantly disrupted the threat, but we cannot be sure that the threat has been entirely eliminated or the plot completely thwarted," said U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

Chertoff added, however, there was no indication of current plots within the U.S. Numerous flights from U.S. cities to Britain were canceled Thursday morning.

A senior U.S. counterterrorism official said authorities believe dozens of people possibly as many as 50 were involved in the plot, which "had a footprint to al-Qaida back to it." The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

The plan involved airline passengers hiding masked explosives in carry-on luggage, the official said. "They were not yet sitting on an airplane," but were very close to traveling, the official said, calling the plot "the real deal."

Passengers in Britain faced delays as tighter security was hastily enforced at the country's airports and additional measures were put in place for all flights. Laptop computers, mobile phones, iPods, and remote controls were among the items banned from being carried on board.

Liquids, such as hair care products, were also barred on flights in both Britain and the U.S., raising the possibility that authorities were searching for a liquid explosive.

As part of the foiled Bojinka Plot to blow up 12 Western airliners simultaneously over the Pacific Ocean in the mid-1990s, terrorist mastermind Ramzi Youssef had planned to put together an improvised bomb using liquid in a contact lens solution container.

Huge lines formed at ticket counters and behind security barriers at Heathrow and other airports in Britain. Ed Lappen, 55, a businessman from Boston, who was traveling with his wife and daughter to Russia, found himself unable to travel further.

"We're safe, we're OK," he said at Heathrow. "Now my daughter is going to get a shopping trip in London."

Hannah Pillinger, 24, seemed less concerned by the announcement. "Eight hours without an iPod, that's the most inconvenient thing," she said, waiting at the Manchester airport.

Most European carriers canceled flights to Heathrow because of the massive delays created after authorities enforced strict new regulations banning most hand baggage.

Heathrow's block on incoming traffic applied to flights of three hours or less, affecting most of the incoming traffic from Europe, an airport spokesman said on condition of anonymity in line with airport policy.

Officials at Frankfurt's airport, Europe's second-busiest, Schiphol in Amsterdam and Charles De Gaulle in Paris said Heathrow-bound planes could instead land at their airports if they needed to.

London's Heathrow airport was the departure point for a devastating terrorist attack on a Pan Am airplane on Dec. 21, 1988. The blast over Lockerbie, Scotland, killed all 259 people aboard Pan Am Flight 103 and 11 people on the ground.

The explosive was hidden in a portable radio which was hidden in checked baggage.

Associated Press Writer Lara Jakes Jordan in Washington and Matt Moore in Frankfurt, Germany, contributed to this report.

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posted by David at 12:14 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (0) ::

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Citizen Protecting Their Property

WRAL

A homeowner killed one suspect and wounded another during an apparent break-in early Wednesday, police said.

Residents of 3301 Dearborn Drive told police that two men kicked in their front door at about 1:40 a.m. and entered the house. At least one of the men was carrying a gun, they told police.

A man, a woman and a 15-month-old boy were in the home when the incident occurred, police said.

One of the adults shot and killed one suspect and wounded the second, police said.

The first suspect, who hasn't been identified, was pronounced dead at the scene.

The second suspect fled from the house. A short time later, a 19-year-old man showed up at the Duke University Hospital emergency room for treatment of a gunshot wound to his arm.

Rashaad Cox, of Newcastle Road in Durham, was charged with first-degree burglary and robbery with a dangerous weapon in connection with the attempted burglary, police said.

Nice, very nice indeed. I'm glad to see that once again a private citizen was able to fight off the attack of criminals. I'm very happy to see that the article doesn't make any mention of an investigation into the legality of the self defense used by the home owner.


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posted by David at 9:06 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (1) ::

Minimum Wage = Russian Roulette

I enjoy reading Thomas Sowell. His views are insightful and hit the nail on the head. In yesterday's article he talked about the negative impact of minimum wage increases.

RealClearPolitics

It was a common political move when Chicago's city council voted recently to impose a $10 an hour minimum wage on big-box retailers. There is nothing that politicians like better than handing out benefits to be paid for by someone else.

What was uncommon was the reaction. Chicago's Mayor Richard M. Daley denounced the bill as "redlining," since it would have the net effect of keeping much-needed stores and jobs out of black neighborhoods. Both Chicago newspapers also denounced the bill.

The crowning touch came when Andrew Young, former civil rights leader and former mayor of Atlanta, went to Chicago to criticize local black leaders who supported this bill.

While the $10 an hour minimum wage was politics as usual, the unusual backlash against it provides at least a glimmer of hope that more people are beginning to consider the economic consequences of such feel-good legislation.

A survey has shown that 85 percent of the economists in Canada and 90 percent of the economists in the United States say that minimum wage laws reduce employment. But you don't need a Ph.D. in economics to know that jacking up prices leads fewer people to buy. Those people include employers, who hire less labor when labor is made artificially more expensive.

It happens in France, it happens in South Africa, it happens in New Zealand. How surprised should we be when it happens in Chicago?

The economic consequence of political largess -- whether in the form of minimum wage laws or medical or other benefits mandated to be paid for by employers -- is to make labor artificially more expensive.

Countries with generous employee benefits mandated by law -- Germany and France, for example -- have chronically higher unemployment rates than unemployment rates in the United States, where jobs are created at a far higher rate than in Europe.

There is no free lunch. Higher labor costs mean fewer jobs.

Since all workers do not have the same skill or experience, minimum wage laws have more impact on some than on others. Young, inexperienced and unskilled workers are especially likely to find it harder to get a job when wage rates have been set higher than the value of their productivity.

In France, where the national unemployment rate is 10 percent, the unemployment rate among workers less than 26 years old is 23 percent. Among young people from the Muslim minority, the unemployment rate is even higher.

In the United States, the group hardest hit by minimum wage laws are black male teenagers. Those who refuse to admit that the minimum wage is the reason for high unemployment rates among young blacks blame racism, lack of education and whatever else occurs to them.

The hard facts say otherwise. Back in the 1940s, there was no less racism than today and black teenagers had no more education than today, but their unemployment rate was a fraction of what it is now -- and was no different from that of white teenagers.

What was different back then? Although there was a minimum wage law on the books, the inflation of that era had raised wage rates well above the specified minimum, which had remained unchanged for years.

For all practical purposes, there was no minimum wage law. Only after the minimum wage began to be raised, beginning in 1950, and escalating repeatedly in the years thereafter, did black teenage unemployment skyrocket.

Most studies show unemployment resulting from minimum wages. But a few studies that reach different conclusions are hailed as having "refuted" the "myth" that minimum wages cause unemployment.

Some of these latter studies involve surveying employers before and after a minimum wage increase. But you can only survey employers who are still in business. By surveying people who played Russian roulette and are still around, you could "refute" the "myth" that Russian roulette is dangerous.

Minimum wage laws play Russian roulette with people who need jobs and the work experience that will enable them to rise to higher pay levels. There is now a glimmer of hope that more people are beginning to understand this, despite political demagoguery.


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posted by David at 4:11 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (0) ::

Liberman Loses Primary

Right winger Ned Lamont beat Lieberman yesterday in the Connecticut primary. Lieberman says he will get on the general ballot as a independent. I hope Lamont doesn't win the the general.


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posted by David at 4:03 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (0) ::

Gas Issues

BP has closed 16 miles of it's US pipeline in Alaska to prevent a spill from corroided pipe.

Look for the price of gas to creep up in the next few days.


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posted by David at 3:46 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (0) ::

Both Strip Clubs in Columbus County Get Raided

The News Reporter

It’s not so magic today for exotic and erotic dancers, and residents of the Delco community didn’t remain quiet about their relief after a raid Thursday evening by Sheriff Chris Batten and his staff that shut down two businesses along U.S. 74-76 – Magic Moments and Whispers Erotic Dancing.

“We are working on civil actions to permanently close both of these businesses. Our raid Thursday was the right thing to do and the people down there appreciate it,” Batten declared.

“We arrested six women on a variety of charges and we’re going after the owners of both of the businesses. We’re going to do whatever it takes to shut them down,” the sheriff added.

The raid was set up after numerous complaints by residents and business owners in the eastern end of the county about the clubs’ operation. “I was getting three or four calls a day last week from people complaining, and now I’m getting the same number, but they’re congratulating us for what we did Thursday,” the sheriff said.

Residents in the Delco community used lawn chairs to watch the raids Thursday, and others honked their horns and waved as they drove by the locations on the four-lane highway.

Batten said he is continuing investigations against Don Mercer of Sneads Ferry, owner of the Magic Moments club, and the owner of Whispers, a business that was just opening when raided. The building housing the new club is a renovated laundry mat and is owned by G&M Investments of Wilmington.


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posted by David at 3:44 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (1) ::

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Tommy Tomlinson Talks About Black and Decker

Charlotte Observer

It's almost too easy, but somebody has to say it:

Black & Decker is the company known for power tools.

Black and Decker are the tools known for abusing power.

At this point, the only people who still defend House Speaker Jim Black fall into two groups: the people he did favors for, and the people who did favors for him.

Lately a lot of those people have found themselves in need of lawyers.

The latest one to end up on a court docket is Michael Decker, the former state rep from Forsyth County.

Decker was a Republican who switched parties and threw in with Black so the Democrats could control the House three years ago. Now Decker is revealing what he got in the deal: $50,000 in campaign contributions and cash.

Decker admitted the payoff as part of his plea to a federal conspiracy charge. He didn't specify who provided the money, and Black denies doing anything wrong.

But Black has admitted directing a few campaign checks Decker's way -- including some with the payee line left blank.

And after Decker lost his election in '04, Black got him a state job at $48,000 a year.

And somehow, Decker's son ended up with a job as a legislative staffer.

And, and, and.

Black's political director, Meredith Norris, is charged with violating the state's lobbying laws.

The guy Black appointed to the state lottery commission, Kevin Geddings, was indicted by a federal grand jury on nine counts of fraud.

And the state Board of Elections says Black himself broke campaign-finance laws.

"I'm not going to comment on any ongoing legal matters," Black has said.

In that case, he won't get to talk much for the next five years or so.

You can believe that Jim Black picked the worst group of friends and allies in political history -- people who cut corners and broke laws left and right while poor ol' Jim watched unawares.

Or you can believe that Jim Black is smarter than that.

Black loves to tell the story about his first election -- in first grade, he ran for the post of crossing guard at Matthews Elementary. He lost by one vote. He lost three elections in the '80s before latching onto his House seat for good.

He learned from those losses. He says he learned not to quit. But he also learned what it takes to win.

And over the years he has made himself into one of the most powerful people in our state. When important people in North Carolina want something done, they don't go to the governor. They go to Jim Black.

Black likes that position. And I suspect he has done a lot to keep it.

He is so entrenched that even these scandals might not pry him out of office. But a man as smart as Jim Black has to know the damage he's doing to this state.

If he loves the power, he'll find a way to stick around.

But if he loves North Carolina, he'll resign.

You hit it right on the head Tommy. In case any reader doesn't know Black is planning on keeping his speaker job after he is 're-elected'. But that can only happen if you allow him to win another term.


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posted by David at 1:48 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (2) ::

NC Buys Jobs

WRAL

North Carolina has had its best year ever for attracting new business and jobs, but it hasn't come cheap: the state has promised nearly five times the incentives as last year to attract the companies.

The state has committed to give $55 million in grants to companies that have pledged $1.7 billion in investment through the end of July, state Commerce Secretary Jim Fain said. More than 12,000 jobs are on tap from the business recruits.

Last year, the state handed out almost $12 million worth of incentive grants in exchange for $1.5 billion in investment with almost 10,000 jobs.

This year's numbers don't reflect plans by Fidelity Investments to invest $100 million and hire 2,000 workers in Research Triangle Park in Raleigh. Fidelity, which announced the plans earlier this week, received promises of up to $69 million from state and local governments.

Fain discussed the results Thursday before the state Economic Development Board.

Former state Supreme Court justice Bob Orr, a critic of incentives, said spending millions of dollars to attract companies is "an insane national game where states are being played off each other."

The cost to attract the companies is greater because the firms themselves are bigger, said Tony Copeland, assistant commerce secretary for business recruiting.

"The types of companies that we're getting are blue chip, marquee companies that are investing large amounts of capital," Copeland said. "We're a world-ranked state."

Fain told the board that incentives make the difference in attracting companies that are heavily recruited by other states and have "game-changing impact in economic development activity."

Copeland said the state was ready for an improved economy by spending earlier on infrastructure and education. The state also established the One North Carolina and the Job Development Investment Grant funds.

The Commerce Department also is working with $1 million in state funds to advertise the state to businesses.

"You create your luck," Copeland said. "We've created this luck."


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posted by David at 1:38 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (4) ::

Easley Oks Bandaid

WRAL

Gov. Mike Easley signed into law Friday an overhaul of ethics and lobbying rules designed to end lawmakers receiving dinners, campaign donations and other perks from lobbyists.

The bill also creates a broader state ethics commission that can investigate all three branches of government, although its probes would largely be hidden from the public. Cases would be referred to other panels when credible complaints are made against judges and lawmakers.

Easley had asked for a stronger commission compared to the one that currently covers mostly executive branch officials and state board appointees. The governor appeared satisfied with the finished product approved by the House and Senate on July 27.

"While this bill will have to be refined and clarified as we go forward, it is a powerful first step at establishing clear ethical standards, oversight and enforcement for public officials," Easley said in a written statement after signing the bill without a public ceremony.

"The General Assembly has worked hard on this bill and we all must ensure that this new law is implemented efficiently and effectively," he said.

The new rules, most of which take effect in January, would ban lobbyists from giving gifts to legislators, the governor, executive branch officials and high-ranking appointees, with several exceptions. Those include meals and drinks at public events for several people and travel for educational or legislative organizations.

Lobbyists also would be prevented from "bundling" campaign donations, a practice in which several campaign checks are given at a time to a candidate, sometimes after a fundraising event.

The ethics commission staff also would collect and review expanded economic disclosure statements of government officials for potential conflicts of interest, issue advisory opinions and oversee mandatory ethics training of public officials.

"We have made a significant step in building public trust," Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand, D-Cumberland, said in the statement.

The ethics and lobbying overhaul took shape after House Speaker Jim Black, D-Mecklenburg, created a state House panel to study the issue. The move came after at least two people associated with Black were investigated for violating state lobbying laws related to their work with Scientific Games Corp. leading up to last year's lottery vote.

Earlier this year, the State Board of Elections ordered Black's campaign to forfeit $23,675 in unlawful campaign contributions. Black is appealing some of the penalties.

This week, former Rep. Michael Decker of Forsyth County pleaded guilty to conspiring to accept $50,000 in campaign contributions in exchange for switching parties, a move that helped Black share power in the House in 2003.

Republicans and a handful of House Democrats have called on him to resign from his post.

Sen. Andrew Brock, R-Davie, will hold a news conference Monday in Raleigh to unveil publicly a new television advertisement critical of Black's legal troubles. The ad calls on viewers to "sign" a Web site petition telling Black to step down.


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posted by David at 1:37 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (1) ::

Claude Allen Pleaded Guilty

WRAL

A former White House adviser pleaded guilty to theft Friday, briefly breaking into tears as he tried to explain to a judge why he made phony returns at discount department stores while working as a top aide to President Bush.

"Something did go very wrong," Claude Allen said.

Allen, 45, is a native of Raleigh, N.C., and a former aide to Sen. Jesse Helms. He pleaded guilty in Montgomery County Circuit Court to one misdemeanor count of theft under $500. He was sentenced to two years of supervised probation and ordered to pay a $500 fine.

Allen must also pay $850 in restitution to Target Corp. and perform 40 hours of community service.

In a short statement before he was sentenced, Allen, who made $160,000 a year as a domestic policy adviser, did not directly say why he made thousands of dollars worth of fraudulent returns to Target and other stores last year.

But he and his wife, Jannese, described the stresses he faced last fall, working long days following the Hurricane Katrina disaster, sleeping just two hours each night. The couple and their four children moved four times in three months, at one point living out of boxes in a friend's basement.

"I lost perspective and failed to restrain myself. At the time, I did not realize or fully appreciate what was going on," said Allen, his hands clasped in front of him as he stood behind the defense table. "These factors do not excuse my behavior ... but they were certainly a part of what happened."

Allen apologized to his wife and friends, many of whom filled one side of the courtroom.

Allen was President Bush's domestic policy adviser until he abruptly resigned in February, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family. The resignation came after he was arrested in January leaving a Gaithersburg Target store with merchandise that authorities said he didn't pay for.

He told the White House about the arrest, but said it was the result of a mix-up with his credit cards. President Bush later said it would be "deeply disappointing" if Allen had misled White House officials.

Allen could have been sentenced to 18 months in prison on the theft charge. Judge Eric Johnson, however, gave Allen probation before judgment, which means his record will be expunged after his probation is over.

The judge noted that Allen already has suffered public humiliation for his arrest, and said he appreciated that Allen accepted responsibility for the crimes without trying to make excuses.

"You are a classic example ... of the fact that shame is not dead," Johnson said.


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posted by David at 1:36 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (1) ::

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

New Sex Offender Restrictions

WWAY TV #

Lawmakers have approved a bill which prohibits registered sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school or daycare center.

Friday's unanimous vote comes as the Legislature attempts to adjourn for the year.

The proposal also bars offenders from working or volunteering in a position where they would interact with minors. Some of the worst predators face lifetime satellite monitoring.

All offenders would face stiff registration requirements, giving authorities more chances to update addresses and photographs.

This law like the one is Geogria that recently passed is too broad. There are sex offenders that in my opinion deserve to die and then there are some that are now labeled sex offender by no or little fault of their own.


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posted by David at 3:31 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (1) ::

Legislature Goes Home

Our state legislature ended it's session last week for the year. I've looked over the "accomplishments" that the democrat lead legislature has been bragging about all weekend.

I've only found 3 things that came out of the session that are decent. One is the small step taken to make it a little harder for illegals to get driving licenses in NC. The second the pay raise for state employeess. And the third is the sex offender law (I do have some reservations that this law may be too far reaching).

Most everything else it crap. And what happened to the $2 billion dollars that we overpaid last year in taxes? They spent it and found new ways to raise even more money next year. What a nice bunch of men and women we have looking out for us in Raliegh. Be sure to remember this come November and make it a no-incumbent win election year.


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posted by David at 3:25 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (3) ::

Small Step To Deter Illegals

Charlotte.com

Just as the year's state legislative session came to a close, legislators added several provisions into bills intended to curb the flow of illegal immigrants into the state.

The provisions address driver's license security, employment and law enforcement.

The addition of the measures on the final evening of the legislative session surprised some activists for tighter immigration enforcement, who thought the laws would die at the end of the session. Activists for greater immigration enforcement had complained that the Democratic leadership was not addressing a serious illegal immigration problem.

"We really (thought) they were not going to pass anything until the last minute," said William Gheen, president of the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC.

About 390,000 illegal immigrants live in the state, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

Democratic leaders have said that immigration is a federal issue limiting their ability to pass enforceable laws. But they say they are actively exploring what states can do, as shown by the passage of these bills.

"Sometimes people urge us to do things that states can't do or would be ineffective to do," said Rep. Joe Hackney, a Chapel Hill Democrat. "But there are other things that we can do and we ought to be investigating those and doing those that make sense."

New Requirements

Legislators passed several bills in the 2006 session hoping to address the growth of the state's illegal immigrant community.

DRIVER'S LICENSE

Legislators voted to eliminate the use of the Individual Taxpayer ID Number as a valid identification document for driver's license applicants.

EMPLOYMENT

State agencies, beginning next year, will be required to check a federal database to verify that newly hired employees are authorized to work in the United States. School systems have until March to comply.

LAW ENFORCEMENT

Local and state law enforcement are now authorized to join a federal program that gives officers the authority to investigate, arrest and detain illegal immigrants.

It's a good first step.


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posted by David at 3:07 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (3) ::