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December 17, 2008

27-year-old cold case murder solved

The New York Times reported that the murder case of Adam Walsh, the 6-year-old that influenced the show “America’s Most Wanted,? was solved on Tuesday.
“Today is a reaffirmation of the fact that he didn’t die in vain,? an emotional Adam’s father and host of “America’s Most Wanted? John Walsh said. “For all the other victims who haven’t gotten justice, I say one thing: ‘Don’t give up hope.’ ? (NY Times).
MSNBC reported that the killer was Ottis Toole, a serial killer who died in prison ten years ago (NY Times reported he died in 1996); Toole was in prison because he was a convicted serial killer (MSNBC and NY Times). According to Toole’s niece, Toole confessed he killed Walsh’s son on his death bed (MSNBC).
"Who could take a 6-year-old and murder and decapitate him? Who?" Walsh said at Tuesday's news conference. "We needed to know. We needed to know. And today we know. The not knowing has been a torture, but that journey's over." (MSNBC).
Adam went missing on July 27, 1981, his decapitated head was found two weeks later and the rest of his body was never found (NY Times).
Chief Chadwick E. Wagner of the Hollywood Police Department said he regretted that the case had not been closed earlier. “This is a day that’s long overdue,? he said. “This case could have been closed years ago.? (NY Times).
Wagner admitted the department made mistakes in the investigation of Adam’s death. Authorities lost the bloodstained carpeting in Toole's car — preventing DNA testing — and the car itself (MSNBC).
MSNBC reported that Toole confessed to killing Adam twice but recanted it. In October 1983, Toole told the police that he had abducted Adam from the mall and decapitated him (NY Times).
Wagner said announcing the case closed on Tuesday was not the result of anything new. “What was there was everything that was in front of our face for years,? he said (NY Times).
After learning of his son’s death, Walsh helped put faces on milk cartons, shopping bags and mailbox fliers, started fingerprinting programs and increased security at schools and stores to help other missing children (MSNBC). Also, Walsh started the program “America’s Most Wanted? and was the host of the show (MSNBC).
The killer, Toole, was a partner of serial killer Henry Lee Lucas. Toole was serving five life sentences for murder when he died of liver failure at the age of 49 (MSNBC).
"We believed for years that Ottis Toole killed Adam," Walsh said (MSNBC).

December 11, 2008

Governors’ offices around the country receiving envelopes with white powder

The Star Tribune reported that Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty office received a letter with an unknown powder on Monday; a spokesman for the Governor said the powder was harmless.
Alaska’s Gov. Sarah Palin’s office also received a similar letter on Tuesday, making it the eighth letter containing the powder and postmarked from Texas (USA Today). The letter was addressed to Palin's predecessor Gov. Frank Murkowski, who left office two years ago (USA Today).
Pawlenty’s office reported that the letter was postmarked specifically from Dallas (Star Tribune).
The other six states that were delivered these letters were Alabama, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana and Rhode Island (USA Today).
In Missouri, a chemical analysis by the state health lab found the powder appeared to be bleached flour, spokeswoman Nanci Gonder said Tuesday (USA Today).

December 6, 2008

New York teacher binds black students during history lesson on slavery

The Star Tribune reported that a white social studies teacher discussing slavery to a seventh-grade class bound the hands and feet of two black girls. The New York Daily News reported that the teacher also made the girls crawl under desks representing slave ships.
“My daughter didn't volunteer for this. My daughter was embarrassed. She's extremely uncomfortable," mother Christine Shand said of her daughter 13-year-old Gabrielle Shand. The other girl who was bound did volunteer (NY Daily News).
The teacher, Eileen Bernstein, apologized to Shand but Shand said Friday she thinks the teacher should be removed from the class (Star Tribune).
"I think the teacher should have gotten some discipline," Shand said. "I know if that was me, I would be uncomfortable going back to that class. Why should my daughter have to switch?" (Star Tribune).
"We encourage our teachers to deliver the curriculum in a variety of ways, to go beyond just reading the textbook," superintendent Brian Monahan of the North Rockland School District said. "We don't want to discourage creativity. But this obviously went wrong because the student was upset," (Star Tribune).
The New York Daily News reported that Bernstein said that she had done the lesson before. Wilbur Aldridge, head of the local NAACP chapter, said he feared that the teacher still "didn't get it" after their meeting. He said the teacher apologized "because Gabrielle was upset, not because she admitted she did something wrong." (Star Tribune).
"Are you telling me when you do a section on the Holocaust, it's okay to simulate an oven and have a grandchild of someone who was a survivor just get in the oven?" Aldridge asked. "That makes no sense." (NY Daily News).

November 30, 2008

Suspect arrested in murder of Arkansas TV anchorwoman

The Associated Press reported that police arrested a suspect after being tipped to his location after police.
The victim was 26-year-old anchorwoman Anne Pressly who died on Oct. 25, five days after being severely beaten in what police described as a random attack at her home (AP).
Pressly’s mother found her in bed, bloodied and beaten almost beyond recognition; she died of blunt-force trauma having never regained consciousness (NY Times).
The New York Times reported that the police provided the Pressly’s employer and its competitors their lead story on Wednesday’s 10 p.m. newscasts, giving the suspect’s name and picture which resulted in tips and 90 minutes later the suspect, Curtis L. Vance, surrendered to officers who had surrounded a house in a Little Rock neighborhood.
Police did not disclose what led them to suspect Vance, but Lt. Terry Hastings said previously that DNA and other evidence from the scene gave police a portrait of the person they were looking for, though they did not have a name until this month (AP).
"We're going to be very tightlipped on this case, pretrial," Hastings said. Police did not say how they obtained the DNA (AP).
At the news conference where Vance's picture was distributed by police Pressly's father, Guy Cannady, said, "It's very difficult to look at the picture, just knowing what Anne went through, that that was the last guy that Anne saw in her life," (AP).
“I know this sounds stupid, but we never even lock our doors,? said Zoe Oakleaf, who lives with her husband and daughter across the street from Pressly’s house. “Well,? Oakleaf added after a moment, “we used to not lock our doors.? (NY Times).

November 21, 2008

Dog drives van into coffee shop

The Star Tribune reported that a dog that was left in a running van and it put the vehicle in drive and ran the van into a coffee house in Long Island on Wednesday.
Suffolk County police said no one was injured in the incident, but the glass window and some patio furniture from the coffee shop were damaged (Star Tribune).
The New York Daily News reported that the dog named Bentley, a 50-pound boxer and Shar-Pei mix, is owned by musician Bryan Maher.
"I ran inside the coffee house to sign up for open-mike night, and I left my car running because it's cold outside and I didn't want my dog to freeze," said Maher, 60. "The next thing I knew, I looked up to see my van coming at me in the window, with Bentley in the driver's seat grinning at me." (NY Daily News).
The coffee shop, Cool Beanz, owner Patricia McCarthy was not upset about the accident. "Bentley was driving a '92 Ford van!" marveled McCarthy, 57. "I was astonished, very much so." (NY Daily News).
Maher said he will try to keep his dog warm without leaving the vehicle on. "This is the first and last time I'll ever put the car in park," he said. "He's a smart dog - obviously, he can drive a van." (NY Daily News).

November 14, 2008

Potential cure for HIV discovered

The Star Tribune reported Wednesday that an American man who had HIV seems to have been cured after 20 months of receiving a bone marrow transplant normally used to fight leukemia.
The Wall Street Journal (who broke the story a week earlier) reported that doctors, a 42-year-old American who lives in Berlin, have been unable to detect the virus in his blood anymore. The Star Tribune reported that the patient has had HIV for more than a decade.
"We waited every day for a bad reading," Dr. Gero Hütter said (Star Tribune). "I was very surprised.? (WSJ).
The Wall Street Journal reported that Hütter, who is not an AIDS specialist but a hematologist, replaced the patient’s bone marrow cells with those from a donor who has a naturally occurring genetic mutation that renders his cells immune to almost all strains of HIV.
The mutation, CCR5 mutation, prevents a molecule called CCR5 from appearing on the surface of cells; CCR5 acts as a kind of door for the HIV virus, so Dr. Hütter looked for a donor who had inherited the CCR5 mutation from both parents (WSJ).
The patient’s tests have shown no signs of the virus, and the patient has been off all of his AIDS medication; normally when a person with AIDS discontinues medication the virus takes over their body within weeks or days (WSJ).
Dr. Andrew Badley, director of the HIV and immunology research lab at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, said those tests have probably not been extensive enough. "A lot more scrutiny from a lot of different biological samples would be required to say it's not present," he said (Star Tribune).
Dr. David Baltimore, who cautions that the Berlin case could be a fluke, deemed it "a very good sign" and a virtual "proof of principle" for gene-therapy approaches (WSJ).

November 7, 2008

Obama wins election

Democrat Barack Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States on Tuesday becoming the first African American president of the United States (New York Times).
Obama, 47 a senator for Illinois, defeated Republican John McCain who was making his second run for presidency (NY Times).
“Senator Obama has achieved a great thing for himself, and for his country,? McCain said when he conceded Tuesday in Phoenix; McCain supporters booed when McCain mentioned Obama’s win in which he quieted them down (NY Times). McCain also said he was sorry Obama’s grandmother died before she could see her grandson become president; she died on Sunday (NY Times).
“I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our goodwill and earnest effort to find ways to come together,? McCain said.
Seats in the senate and the house in Congress also went to Democrats by big numbers (NY Times).
The New York Times reported that Obama benefited from the large voter turnouts, especially among African Americans; Obama also did well with Hispanic voters. The New York Times reported that McCain did not do as well with Hispanic voters, actually he got less votes from them than President George W. Bush in 2004 which the Times suggests is because the Republican Party has suffered among those voters due to efforts to cut down on illegal immigration.
The outcome of the election changed the history of American, but it also had an impact on the rest of the world.
"I am confident today about future relations between the United Nations and the United States,? U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. “I am confident that we can look forward to an era of renewed partnership and a new multilateralism.? (MSNBC).
South African Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo said Obama’s win proves to the world that democracy works. "Clearly an Obama administration will be less ideological," he said. "We just are going to say to him, 'Bring that same spirit to resolving problems in Africa.' So it's a great day. ... We need the U.S. to come along with us — with more enthusiasm now."
MSNBC reported that crowds in Australia, Brazil, and in a town in Japan called Obama, gather in front of TVs or listened to radios to hear the outcome of the U.S. election.
Many are amazed that the U.S., who has a long history of slavery and segregation, elected a minority as its president. “It shows that America truly is a diverse, multicultural society where the color of your skin really does not matter,? said Jason Ge, an international relations student at Peking University in China (MSNBC).
South Africa's first black president Nelson Mandela said the outcome of the election is America's symbol of hope. In a letter of congratulations released by his office Wednesday, he said the Democrat's victory demonstrated that anyone can "dare to dream of wanting to change the world for a better place." (MSNBC).

November 1, 2008

Gunman arrested after taking 11 children hostage at a school

The Star Tribune reported that a 55-year-old gunman held 11 fifth-graders hostage at a school in Maine on Friday but was arrested and no children were harmed.
The gunman was Richard Hofland of Stockton Springs, Maine (United Press International) (UPI reported his last name as Holland, but the Star Tribune reported it as Hofland, other sources report that as his name as well). Police had been looking for Hofland since Oct. 23 after allegations that he pulled a gun on an officer during a traffic stop (UPI). The Star Tribune reported that the traffic stop was a seat belt safety check; Hofland drove off and left his car in a field after he pointed the gun at the officer, which the Star Tribune reported he was charged for on Friday.
UPI reported that Hofland gave his fun to one of the fifth-graders during the hostage situation at the Stockton Springs Elementary School and released the children shortly after the police arrived and he was arrested.
"These children are very brave. They did a tremendous job," Gov. John Baldacci said (Star Tribune).
The Star Tribune reported that the state police were called at 8:42 a.m. and Hofland was arrested about 20 minutes later after he was tackled by a state trooper.
Baldacci praised the school and police for their fast response; schools have been on high alert since Hofland drove off on Oct. 23, schools had a lock down on Oct. 24 to be safe (Star Tribune).
"Everyone was calm. They did what they were supposed to do. The bottom line: Nobody got hurt," district school Superintendent Raymond Freve said (Star Tribune).

October 25, 2008

Apple supports gay marriage

The Star Tribune reported Friday that Apple Inc. will donate $100,000 in support of gay marriage in California.
The $100,000 pledge by Apple is aiming to defeat Proposition 8. Apple said this is a civil rights issue (Star Tribune).
"Apple views this as a civil rights issue, rather than just a political issue, and is therefore speaking out publicly against Proposition 8," the company said in a statement posted Friday on its Web site (Mercury News).
Apple is siding with the no vote on the proposition while those who oppose gay marriage would vote yes on Proposition 8.
"The Yes on 8 campaign is being supported by regular Californians from every corner of the state who believe that marriage is between a man and a woman," said campaign spokesman Chip White (The Mercury News).
A new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California says Proposition 8 is losing 52 to 44 percent among likely voters, but the margin has narrowed from a 14-point gap in September (Mercury News).
The Mercury News reported that Google is also against Proposition 8. The Star Tribune reported that other donors against Proposition 8 included Levi Strauss & Co. who donated $25,000 last month.
Same-sex marriage became legal in California in June (Star Tribune).

October 19, 2008

Mom pleads insanity in identify theft case

A Wisconsin woman pleaded not guilty by reasons of insanity on Friday after she was charged with stealing her daughter’s identity to attend high school (Star Tribune).
The mom, 33-year-old Wendy Brown of Green Bay faces a felony charge for stealing her 15-year-old daughter’s identity (Star Tribune). The Green Bay Press Gazette reported that Brown attended one day of classes at Ashwaubenon High School this fall. Brown also attended a cheerleading practice and went to a party at the coach’s house (Green Bay Press Gazette).
After Brown stopped going to class, a truancy complaint was filed, which revealed her real identity (Green Bay Press Gazette). Brown missed classes because she was in jail on Sept. 3 on theft and forgeries charges in an unrelated incident (Green Bay Press Gazette).
The Star Tribune reported that these unrelated charges were from an incident where Brown allegedly collected money from an apartment she did not have authority to rent. Brown could face up to almost 13 years in prison if convicted of all her charges (Star Tribune).
Judge Sue Bischel of the Brown County Circuit Court agreed Friday for Brown to have a mental health evaluation (Star Tribune).

October 11, 2008

GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin accused of abusing power

The Washington Post reported that a legislative committee released a report on Friday with evidence that Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska abused her power when she and her husband worked to get her former brother-in-law fired from the Alaska State Troopers.
The report, released by a bipartisan legislative committee, stated that “Governor Palin knowingly permitted a situation to continue where impermissible pressure was placed on several subordinates in order to advance a personal agenda, to wit: To get Trooper Michael Wooten fired.? (Washington Post).
MSNBC reported that Palin responded to the allegations of her abuse of power: "No, and if you read the report you'll see that there was nothing unlawful or unethical about replacing a cabinet member. You gotta read the report, sir."
The legislative committee involved in releasing the report, does not recommend and investigation and has no authority to sanction Palin (MSNBC).
The McCain campaign does not believe the report will have any effect on the election or the reputation of the GOP candidates. "I think the American people can tell the difference between the results of a politically motivated investigation and a legitimate finding of fact," McCain campaign spokesman Taylor Griffin said (MSNBC).
The report stated that Palin had the right to fire Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan, but his dismissal came in part because he refused to remove Michael Wooten (Washington Post).
Stephen Branchflower, a retired prosecutor hired to conduct the investigation, said Monegan's firing was lawful, but the pressure Palin and her husband put on him, he said, was not (MSNBC). Branchflower identified 18 events to validate an effort to get Wooten fired (Washington Post).
McCain spokeswoman Meg Stapleton said that the Palins "were completely justified in their concern regarding Trooper Wooten given his violent and rogue behavior." (Washington Post).
"This is the opinion of this Legislative Council investigation," Griffin said. "It's just an opinion." (MSNBC).

October 3, 2008

Bank robbed twice in same day by two different bandits

Fox News reported on Wednesday that a Wells Fargo bank in the San Diego area was robbed twice on the same day, by two different robbers.
Authorities told MSNBC that the two bandits robbed the bank three hours apart. According to FBI spokeswoman April Langwell, the first bandit named “The Chatty Bandit? arrived with a pistol and demanded cash (MSNBC). Less than three hours later, the second bandit, named “The Hard Hat Bandit? presented a note demanding money, Langwell said (MSNBC).
Neither thief has been arrested (Fox News). “The Chatty Bandit? is wanted for at least nine robberies since March (Fox News). “The Hard Hat Bandit? is wanted for at least three robberies in the past week alone (Fox News).

September 27, 2008

Iowa College apologizes for offensive typo

MSNBC reported Thursday that the Des Moines Area Community College is apologizing for a typo in a school handbook.
The calendar section of the handbook meant to say "Black History Lunch and Learn" for Feb. 16, 2009 (MSNBC). Instead, 10,000 handbooks read: "Black History Linch and Learn." (MSNBC).
"There's no question in my mind that it was inadvertent," President Rob Denson said (USA Today). Denson said it was a mistake since the word “linch? was misspelled, and not meant to sound like lynch, a term meaning the practice of mobs hanging black people or abolitionists (USA Today).
Denson said the typo was brought to his attention Sept. 17, and he apologized that same day (USA Today). Denson said stickers have been made for students to place over the entry and it will be corrected in the next printing (MSNBC).
When shown the typo, Corwin Colebrooke, an African American student at the school, laughed and said, “Wow, that’s awkward; I guess I don't feel much of a threat by it.? Colebrooke said he is not easily offended (USA Today).

September 19, 2008

Hillary Clinton cancels appearance due to Sarah Palin’s scheduled attendance

The Star Tribune reported Tuesday that Hillary Clinton canceled her scheduled appearance in New York when learning that Sarah Palin had been invited as well. "Her attendance was news to us, and this was never billed to us as a partisan political event," said Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines. "Sen. Clinton will therefore not be attending." (Star Tribune). The event scheduled is a pro-Israel, anti-Iran rally (New York Daily News). Clinton learned of Palin’s scheduled appearance from reporters.
“Gov. Palin believes that the danger of a nuclear Iran is greater than party or politics,? Tracey Schmitt, a Palin spokeswoman said. “She hopes that all parties can rally together in opposition to this grave threat.? (NY Daily News).
The rally is scheduled to protest the appearance of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Star Tribune). The rally is September 22 at the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza (NY Daily Times). Other sponsors attending the rally event Monday are: the National Coalition to Stop Iran Now, United Jewish Communities and the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (Star Tribune).
Referring to Clinton’s absence: “She's our senator, she belongs there,? Jeff Wiesenfeld, the New York regional president of the American Jewish Congress, said. (NY Daily News). Political analyst Hank Sheinkopf said of Palin: "Sarah Palin's gonna look great, banging on an enemy of the U.S.A. It's good red meat." (NY Daily News).

September 12, 2008

Somali Muslims Fight for Prayer

Gold’n Plump Inc. of Minnesota and Wisconsin is now permitting Muslims to have prayer breaks at work the Star Tribune reported Wednesday. Muslims working at Gold’n Plump were also granted permission not to touch or handle pork since it is against the Muslim religion. The Star Tribune reported that this settlement came after a year of examining by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). “For this group of Americans at this time in our nation’s history, this is a very important outcome,? said Joe Snodgrass, a St. Paul attorney (Star Tribune).
The same day Gold’n Plump gave Muslims their rights to a prayer break, several dozen workers at the JBS Swift & Co. meatpacking plant in Greenley, Colorado were fired for walking out after not receiving a prayer break (Pioneer Press). “Usually in these cases we’re able to come to an amicable solution,? said Ibrahim Hooper, a CAIR spokesman (Pioneer Press). The workers walked out during their evening shift due to the company’s refusal to allow them prayer breaks (Pioneer Press).
It is currently the holy month of Ramadan which means Muslims cannot eat or drink until the sunset prayer (Pioneer Press). One of the fired workers, Graen Isse, said the 8p.m. lunch “would be way too late,? (Pioneer Press). The Star Tribune reported that there are an estimated 25,000 people of Somali descent in Minnesota. Conflicts involving religious and cultural practices have long been a factor in the workplace.
The Star Tribune reported that “the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 says employers must accommodate workers’ religious beliefs, so long as the requests are ‘reasonable’ and do not create ‘undue hardship’ for the employer.? But employers may view prayer breaks as disrupting the work and productivity of the company (Star Tribune). Snodgrass told the Star Tribune said prayers last no longer than a bathroom break. “There is a reason why your children have never gone to school on Christmas or Easter, and yet Muslim children go to school on the final day of Ramadan,? Snodgrass told the Star Tribune. The Pioneer Press reported that the Tyson Foods Plant in Shelbyville, Tennessee will give workers a paid holiday on the last day of Ramadan, which is Oct. 1 this year.