April 16, 2009

Former Ill. governor wants to join a reality show

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who pleaded not guilty to corruption charges on Tuesday, wants to join a reality television series, starring celebrities in Costa Rica.

NBC's "I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!" is a program similar to CBS' "Survivor" -- contestants perform enduring physical tasks in the middle of a Costa Rican jungle, the Associated Press reported.

The obstacle for Blagojevich -- a federal judge must give permission for Blagojevich to leave the country.

Blagojevich currently faces 16 federal charges and close to 300 years in prison for corruption charges that included selling off President Barack Obama's Senate seat. The former governor was ordered to surrender his passport following his December arrest.

Following his impeachment, Blagojevich has kept himself busy. "Since his arrest, he has announced a deal to write a book, hosted a Chicago radio talk show and made the New York talk show circuit, chatting it up with everyone from David Letterman to the women of 'The View,'" the Associated Press reported.

Blagojevich could earn up to $80,000 per episode if he's given permission to join the reality television show.

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April 12, 2009

New dog in the White House

A promise on the campaign trail finally comes true: the first family welcomed a 6-month-old Portuguese water dog named Bo to the White House.

President Obama's daughters, Sasha and Malia, picked out the black-and-white dog, a White House official told The Associated Press on Saturday.

The Obama girls named the dog after singer "Bo" Diddley, a reference to first lady Michelle Obama's father, nicknamed "Diddley."

The dog is a gift from Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who owns several Portuguese water dogs, the Associated Press reported.

"We couldn't be happier to see the joy that Bo is bringing to Malia and Sasha," Kennedy said in a statement. "We love our Portuguese water dogs and know that the girls - and their parents - will love theirs, too."

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March 15, 2009

Red Cross Described 'Torture' at CIA Jails

A secret report from the International Committee of the Red Cross strongly implies that the Bush administration's treatment of Al-Qaeda captives "constitutes torture," violating the international law prohibiting torture and maltreatment of prisoners.

The 2007 report was an account of "alleged physical and psychological brutality inside CIA "black site" prisons and states that some U.S. practices amounted to 'cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,'" the Star Tribune reported. These practices of torture are strongly prohibited by the Geneva Conventions.

Many of the details of alleged mistreatment had been reported previously, but the ICRC report is the most authoritative account and the first to use the word "torture" in a legal context, The Washington Post reported.

"At least five copies of the report were shared with the CIA and top White House officials in 2007 but barred from public release by ICRC guidelines intended to preserve the humanitarian group's strict policy of neutrality in conflicts," the Star Tribune reported.

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Bernanke: Recovery to begin next year

The United States recession could end this year if the government successfully stabilizes the banking system, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Sunday, the Associated Press reported.

In a rare television interview with CBS' "60 Minutes," Bernanke seemed optimistic that recovery would come next year.

"We've seen some progress in the financial markets, absolutely," Bernanke said. "But until we get that stabilized and working normally, we're not going to see recovery," CNN reported.

Bernanke stressed his central idea to his recovery plan was to get banks to lend more freely and to push the financial markets to work normally.

However, Bernanke said, the unemployment rate will continue to rise, climbing past 8.1 percent. There are some economists that believe the unemployment rate will hit 10 percent by the end of the year, the Associated Press reported.

"But we do have a plan. We're working on it. And, I do think that we will get it stabilized, and we'll see the recession coming to an end probably this year." (Associated Press)

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March 5, 2009

Florida woman calls 911 3 times over McNuggets

A Florida woman called 911 three times after a McDonald's employee informed her that they ran out of McNuggets, according to a police report obtained Tuesday.

Latreasa L. Goodman, 29, called police after the McDonald's cashier refused to give her a refund, saying it was against store policy and all sales were final.

"After police told Goodman the incident was not an emergency, Goodman replied, 'This is an emergency. If I would have known they didn't have McNuggets, I wouldn't have given my money, and now she wants to give me a McDouble, but I don't want one. This is an emergency,'" MSNBC reported.

Police say Goodman was cited on a misuse of 911 charge, the Associated Press reports.

A McDonald's spokesman says Goodman should have been given a refund. (Associated Press)

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Rove and Miers to testify for prosecutor firings

Karl Rove and Harriet Myers agreed Wednesday to be questioned by the House Judiciary Committee over the firings of U.S. attorneys two years ago, settling a legal issue that was to be battled out in the courts.

The aides previously could not testify according to assertion of executive privilege from former President George W. Bush.

"The White House Counsel’s office played an active role in bringing the parties together towards an accommodation, an official told CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller." (CBS)

"Nine U.S. attorneys were fired. An internal Bush Justice Department investigation concluded that political considerations played a part in at least four of the dismissals," the Associated Press reports.

The agreement calls for Rove and Miers, Bush's top political adviser and White House counsel, to be interviewed by the House committee in closed testimony "under the penalty for perjury," House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich, said. Rove and Miers may be called for public testimony, according to the agreement.

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March 1, 2009

Rare snowstorm hits Southeast and heads for Northeast

Officials in the Northeast are preparing for 13 to 15 inches of snow from a rare March snowstorm that has covered much of the the Southeast with snow on Sunday.

"The icy blast threatened to drop up to a foot of snow in the Philadelphia area, 13 inches in New York and 15 inches across southern New England late Sunday," the Star Tribune reports.

The snowstorm headed for Northeast is expected to last up to 18 hours, with Boston expected to see 15 inches of snowfall, the National Weather Service said Sunday afternoon. (CNN)

Airlines have preemptively canceled flights Saturday in New York City's regional airports.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced more than 1,300 sanitation workers stood ready to spread salt and plow streets.

More than 210 churches in Georgia had to cancel morning church services. The snowfall delayed flights and rendered roads treacherous.

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February 22, 2009

Obama plans to slash deficit in half

President Barack Obama efforts to revive the economy is part of a greater plan to cut the federal deficit in half by the end of his term.

Obama will address Congress on Tuesday on his "efforts to restore fiscal discipline," the Associated Press reported. The goal is to halve the federal deficit to $533 billion by the end of his first term in 2013, an administration official said Saturday.

Obama inherited a deficit of about $1.3 trillion from former President George W. Bush.

"Obama has pledged to make deficit reduction a priority both as a candidate and a president. But he also has said economic recovery must come first," the Associated Press reported.

Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota said Sunday it's a bad idea to raise taxes "in the middle of a deep, deep recession," USA Today reported.

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February 19, 2009

Religion not an issue in beheading case, lawyer says

A Muslim-American television executive accused of decapitating his wife remains in jail without bail while his lawyer denies that culture played a role in the crime.

The lawyer of Muzzammil "Mo" Hassan, 44, waived his right Wednesday to a felony hearing.

"'Culture, religion doesn't play a role,' said defense attorney James Harrington, reacting to speculation that the crime may have been an 'honor killing,'" the Associated Press reported.

The body of Aasiya Hassan, 37, was found at the offices of the Muslim-American television network, Bridges TV. Hassan turned himself in Feb. 12, telling police officers that his wife was dead. He was arrested on charges of second-degree murder, Police Chief Andrew Benz said.

On Feb. 6, one week before her death, A. Hassan filed for divorce and obtained an order of protection against M. Hassan.

Officers had responded to domestic dispute calls from the house in the past, Chief Benz said.

The couple had two children in elementary school and M. Hassan had two teenage children from a previous marriage, friends of the couple said.

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February 15, 2009

U.S. army "wants more immigrants"

The United States army will now accept immigrants with temporary visas to enroll, offering accelerated citizenship.

Previously, immigrants needed to have permanent residency, known as a "green card", in order to enroll in the army. Those who enroll in the army with temporary visas could become U.S. citizens in as little as six months.

This is the first time the army has changed its restrictions since the Vietnam War.

“'The American Army finds itself in a lot of different countries where cultural awareness is critical,' said Lt. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, the top recruitment officer for the Army, which is leading the pilot program," reported the New York Times.

The army will not enlist illegal immigrants, officers said. That policy would not change.

"To enlist, temporary immigrants will have to prove that they have lived in the United States for two years and have not been out of the country for longer than 90 days during that time. They will have to pass an English test," the New York Times reports.

About 8,000 immigrants with green cards join the armed forces annually, the Pentagon reports.

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February 12, 2009

Court rules against cases which claim vaccines caused autism in children

The U.S. Court of Claims has ruled against a case Thursday filed by parents with autistic children, who claimed vaccinations are to blame for their children's neurological disorder.

The evidence overwhelmingly supported the contrary, judges said. Years of science show that vaccines have no risk, the Associated Press reported.

Special master George Hastings said the parents of Michelle Cedillo -- who had charged that a measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine caused their child to develop autism -- had 'been misled by physicians who are guilty, in my view, of gross medical misjudgment,'" reported the Star Tribune.

Claimants believe their fight is not over. "Families can now go to civil court," said Sara DiFucci, who claims her daughter developed autism after receiving the vaccine.

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February 6, 2009

U.S. unemployment rate reaches 7.6 percent

More than 598,000 Americans lost their jobs in January, raising the unemployment rate to 7.6%, the highest percentage since 1982, the Labor Department said.

President Obama said the jobs report underlines the sense of urgency to pass the stimulus bill, the New York Times reported.

The manufactoring industries suffered the most job cuts with a total of 207,000 after cutting 162,000 in December. Retail and construction industries cut fewer jobs in January after large job cuts in December.

"The economy has lost 3.6 million jobs since the start of the recession in December 2007," reports National Public Radio.

The United States recession has started to affect the global market: most of Europe is slipping into a recession.

According to the report, economists say that unemployment will continue to rise. Economists predict the banking system to report over $1 trillion to $3 trillion in losses tied to the housing market.

"If there is anyone, anywhere, who doubts the need for wise counsel and bold and immediate action, consider the devastating news we just received this morning," said President Obama.

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February 2, 2009

Daschle apologizes for tax errors

Tom Daschle, former South Dakota senate majority leader and President Obama's nominee for the head of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, explained Monday why he recently paid $140,000 in back taxes and interest.

"In a letter to the panel, Tom Daschle, the former Senate majority leader and Democratic senator from South Dakota, said he was "deeply embarrassed and disappointed" by the tax errors," reported National Public Radio.

The Senate committee considering his nomination plans holds closed meetings Monday afternoons. Daschle will be expected to answer questions regarding his tax errors. The committee will decide whether or not the tax problem will stand in the way of his confirmation.

In the last two years, Daschle has collected over $5.2 million in earnings while advising companies: insurers, hospitals, real estate, energy, and telecommunications were a few industries included in a report issued by the Office of Government Ethics.

"Among the health care interest groups paying Daschle for speeches were America's Health Insurance Plans, $40,000 for two speeches, CSL Behring, $30,000, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, $16,000, and the Principal Life Insurance Co., $15,000," reported the Associated Press.

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January 29, 2009

Colorado man accused of assassination plots against Obama

A federal grand jury indicted a 20-year-old Colorado man on charges of threatening to kill President Barack Obama and a plot to blow up the Mall of America.

Timothy Ryan Gutierrez of Cortez, Colo. sent two threatening e-mails to the FBI's Washington office eight days before Pres. Obama's inauguration.

"'Both threats were taken seriously, and both threats were investigated immediately by the FBI,' said Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for acting U.S. Attorney Dave Gaouette," reported the Associated Press.

Gutierrez is charged with one count of transmission of threats and one count of falsely threatening to use explosives, reported the Star Tribune. U.S. attorney's office said that Gutierrez is currently not in custody.

In one e-mail sent to the FBI, Gutierrez wrote: "I'm going to assassinate the new president of the United States of America. P.S., you have 48 hours to stop it from happening."

The second e-mail described his plans to blow up the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn. Forty pounds of C4 explosive and TNT were to be placed on seven parked cars.

Mall security was "notified immediately" by the FBI and Bloomington Police. After 16 to 18 hours and a search of the mall, the threat was deemed invalid.

Gutierrez is not the first person to have threatened the president. "Other men in Florida, Hawaii, Mississippi and Nebraska also face charges in connection with making threats against Obama." (AP)

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January 27, 2009

Congress to delay the digital switch

Congress is voting on a bill this week to delay the digital TV switch. The bill proposes a four-month delay for the transition, pushing the date back to Jun. 12.

The Senate voted unanimously Monday night to delay the upcoming digital transition scheduled for Feb. 17, the Associated Press reported.

The House is expected to vote late Tuesday or Wednesday. Democrats need support from more than two-thirds of House members to pass the bill.

The bill was brought forth in consideration of the millions of families who are not prepared for the switch. The Nielson Co. predicted last week that more than 6.5 million homes are unable to receive digital broadcasting.

Among those who oppose the bill is Republican Joe Barton. Barton, member of the House Commerce Committee, said that the delay would only confuse consumers. Barton said that it would "burden the wireless companies and public safety agencies that are waiting for airwaves that will be freed by the shutdown of analog TV broadcasts," The Associated Press reports.

Digital TV converter boxes are required to receive digital broadcast transmissions. A federal government organization provided coupons in order for lower-income households to receive new digital equipment. More than 2.5 million households remain on a waiting list for one of these coupons due to a lack of government funding. (Reuters)

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