April 24, 2009

New evidence in the Craiglist murder case

A match was made Friday between the bullets that killed Julissa Brisman, an aspiring model, and a gun found in the home of Philip Markoff.

Officials said they are still waiting for the final results from the ballistics test, said the New York Times.

Markoff, a Boston University medical student, was charged with Tuesday with killing Brisman, a 25-year-old masseuse he met through Craigslist, in another Boston hotel on April 14. He was also charged with robbing another woman at gunpoint in a Boston hotel, said
Associated Press

Markoff pleaded not guilt on Tuesday to the Boston charges.

Law officials said that a fingerprint was found at a Rhode Island hotel where an exotic dancer was held at gunpoint that matches that of Markoff.

However, he has not been charged in the Rhode Island case.

April 17, 2009

Obama announced plan for high-speed rail line

President Obama announced Thursday that $8 billion of federal stimulus money will be allocated to building a high-speed rail system.

Ten lines were chosen as high-priority projects and included a nine-state Midwestern network that will look around a rail hub in Chicago, said the
Chicago Tribune.

The funding will also include an additional $1 billion annually given to states for five years to improve passenger rail.

"High-speed rail is long overdue, and this plan lets American travelers know that they are not doomed to a future of long lines at the airports or jammed cars on the highways," Obama said to the Los Angeles Times. "There's no reason why we can't do this."

Trains passing through Chicago could be up and running as soon as 2012 to 2014. These lines would connect with Milwaukee and Madison, Wis., on one corridor and Detroit and Pontiac, Mich., on another. Later, routes connecting the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Kansas City and Louisville would be added.

Outside of the Midwest, high-speed lines in Florida, Texas and the Pacific Northwest are being considered.

April 11, 2009

Retired priest injures crowd after Good Friday service

An 89-year-old woman died and four others were injured after a retired priest drove his car into a crowd Friday following a Good Friday service at a church in western Pennsylvania.

Madelyn Romell was hit by the car while she was waiting for a ride outside of St. Maurice Church in Forest Hills, Penn., said CNN News.

Officials said Romell, whose leg was severed in the accident, died at an area hospital.

The retired priest had just finished helping with an afternoon service was driving around the church entrance when his car accelerated into the crowd, said the Los Angeles Times.

The other four people injured did not sustain life-threatening injuries.

Romell attended services daily and her husband was in the crowd but was not injured.

April 3, 2009

Iowa Supreme Court approves same-sex marriage

Iowa became the third state in the United States to approve same-sex marriage Friday after the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a 1998 law limiting marriage between a man and a woman was unconstitutional.

The decision came after a four-year trial that began with a suit that six same-sex couples brought to the lower courts, said the New York Times .

Same-sex could begin as soon as 21 days and will be permitted for at least two years.

Those opposed to the ruling are expected to lobby for a state constitutional amendment that could send the issues to voters, said CNN News.

If voters were asked to vote on a constitutional amendment, the state legislature would have to approve a ban on same-sex marriage in two consecutive sessions before a vote would be taken.

Iowa does not have a residency requirement for getting a marriage license, which may lead many to the state temporarily from other states.

March 29, 2009

6 dead after shooting in North Carolina nursing home

Six people died and several are injured, including a police officer, after a gunman opened fire in a North Carolina nursing home Sunday morning.

Police apprehended the gunman from Pinelake Health and Rehab in the town of Carthage around 10 a.m., said Los Angeles Times.

A spokeswoman from FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital said that six people were brought to the hospital. Two of the six died at the hospital, but it is unclear whether these two were counted among the six reported dead by the police.

Two of the patients have been discharged, while two were still being treated. No further details have been released on their conditions.

Carthage Police Department Chief Chris McKenzie said to
BBC News that the shooter was an "adult male".

The suspect was also taken to the hospital and will be questioned soon in order to uncover the motive.

The nursing home is about 60 miles southwest of Raleigh and has been open since 1993. It specializes in care for people with Alzheimer's disease.

March 13, 2009

Anna Nicole Smith's boyfriend, doctors charged with giving her drugs

Anna Nicole Smith's boyfriend and two of her doctors were charged Friday for frequently supplying the former Playboy model with prescription drugs since 2004.

Howard Kevin Stern, 40, and doctors Sandeep Kapoor, 40, and Khristine Eroshevich, 61, have been charged by the Los Angeles County district attorney's office for "prescribing, administering and dispensing controlled substances to an addict" and "unlawfully prescribing a controlled substance," reported Los Angeles Times.

"These individuals furnished thousands of prescription pills to Anna Nicole Smith, often for no legitimate medical purpose," California Attorney General Jerry Brown said in a statement.

Prosecutors said both doctors prescribed thousands of drugs to Stern, who gave them to Smith between June 2004 and January 2007, according to an article in the Star Tribune.

Brown said in his statement that the drugs included opiates, benzodiazepines, and other controlled and non-controlled substances.

Each doctor was also charged with obtaining a prescription for opiates by "fraud, deceit or misrepresentation," and obtaining a prescription for opiates by giving a false name or address.

Examiners said Eroshevich authorized all 11 of the medications found in the Florida hotel room where Smith was found unresponsive on Feb. 8, 2007.

Prosecutors are unsure how long the three could face in prison if convicted.

March 8, 2009

Illinois pastor killed by gunman

A gunman killed a pastor during a church service Sunday, then stabbed himself and two others as parishioners tried to subdue him.

The gunman entered the First Baptist Church in Maryville, Ill., shortly after 8 a.m. and walked down the aisle toward Pastor Fred Winters, reported an Associated Press article in the Wall Street Journal.

The two briefly spoke before the gunman pulled out a .45-caliber handgun and shot Winters once.

Illinois state police spokesman Ralph Timmins said the gunman's gun then jammed, so he pulled out a knife and stabbed himself and two others that were trying to tackle him.

The two people that tackled the gunman suffered non-life threatening injuries while the gunman's injures are said to be "very serious," reported CNN.

Winters was pronounced dead at Anderson Hospital, said spokeswoman Natalie Head to the Associated Press.

The gunman had been taken to a local hospital before being flown to one in St. Louis, where his condition is not immediately known.

It is unknown whether the gunman and Winters knew each other.

March 1, 2009

Obama names Kansas governor as health secretary

Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas accepted President Obama's nomination Saturday for secretary of health and human services.

The Democratic governor endorsed Obama early in his presidental campaign and is known for her bipartisanship, reported the New York Times.

Sebelius' nomination came after Senator Tom Daschle withdrew his nomination because of a failure to pay $128,000 in taxes.

Her position requires overseeing 65,000 employees and a $700 billion budget.

A formal announcement of her nomination is expected on Monday.

The announcement came days before a summit on health reform is scheduled to meet at the White House, according to an article in the
Washington Post

The summit will address problems such as soaring health care costs and holes in coverage. It also hopes to encourage public support for an overhaul in the current health care system.

Like Obama's "fiscal responsibility" summit last week, the event will begin with a speech by the president and continue with group discussions led by administration officials.

Obama has proposed to set aside $634 billion for a new reserve fund that would help pay the cost of changing the health care system to provide universal coverage. Currently, about 46 million Americans have no coverage and the number is expected to rise as more people become unemployed.

February 22, 2009

Police close to arresting suspect in Chandra Levy case

Police are close to making an arrest in connection with the murder of Chandra Levy.

Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier told Levy's family Friday that charges would be pressed in several days, according to the New York Times.

The suspect, Ingmar Guandique, 27, is currently serving a 10-year sentence after pleading guilty to assault in September 2001. He was accused of attacking women on two different occasions in May and June of that year at Rock Creek Park, which is the same park in Washington where police officials found Levy's body in 2002.

An inmate of Guandique contacted police and said that Guandique had told him he killed Levy.

The investigation of the disappearance of 24-year-old Levy in May 2001 revealed the illicit relationship between Levy and California Rep. Gary Condit, according to Fox News.

The media's coverage of the investigation led to speculations that Condit was involved in the disappearance even though police never named him as a suspect.

The case was forgotten, however, after the attacks of Sept. 11.

February 15, 2009

Buffalo plane crash may have been caused by improper procedure

The National Transportation Board announced Sunday that the Buffalo plane crash may have been caused by the pilots' adherence to improper procedure in icy weather.

The Continental Connection commuter plane was on autopilot before it crashed, according to an Associated Press article published in the Star Tribune.

Colgan Air, the company that owned Continental Flight 3407, requires all planes to be flown manually in severe icy conditions.

Investigators said the pilots were told of the "light to moderate icing" conditions before departing New Jersey. As a precaution, the crew turned on the de-icing system quickly after takeoff and it remained on for the entire flight, reported the Wall Street Journal.

The plane was on autopilot until the plane started to intense drops and rolls right before the crash. According to the data released by the board, the plane dropped 800 feet in approximately five seconds.

All 49 people aboard and one person on the ground died.

February 8, 2009

Oil sludge leaks into a Chicago river

Oil sludge leaked from a Caterpillar facility Sunday into the Des Plaines River.

A holding tank spilled approximately 65,000 gallons of oil sludge from the facility in Joliet, a Chicago suburb.

The sludge was mainly spilled on land, but 6,000 gallons contaminated a 3-mile section of the river, according to the Pioneer Press.

A U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer said the spill was not a serious threat to human health but could be dangerous to animals.

All barge and boat traffic has been stopped.

Caterpillar released a statement that said an investigation into how the sludge leaked will begin shortly. The company also assured the public everything possible is being done to clean the oil sludge.

Local officials, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency have placed a floating wall in the water in order to isolate the area, reports Fox News.

January 28, 2009

Congress votes in favor of civil rights bill

Congress passed a civil rights bill that would make it easier for employees to report pay discrimination. According to the New York Times, the signing of the bill by President Obama will mark the first important legislation of his term.

The bill, named for Lilly M. Ledbetter, will relax the statue of limitations currently applied to cases involving pay discrimination. Currently, a person must file a claim within 180 days of the initial illegal practice. However, supporters of the bill say this is unrealistic since employees rarely disclose their salaries to each other. The bill will allow employees to make a claim after every discriminatory pay check.

Ledbetter, a longtime employee of a Goodyear tire plant in Alabama, sued the company after discovering that she received less pay than her male counterparts. In 2007 the Supreme Court rejected her lawsuit in a 5-4 decision and stated that although she was a victim of gender discrimination, she did not file the claim in time.

The Star Tribune reported that the bill applies not just to discrimination based on gender, but religion, gender, ethnicity, disability, and age as well.

Opponents say that employees may take advantage of the change by filing unsubstantial claims and flooding trial lawyers with cases.

In response, the New York Times reported Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland saying, "If you don’t want to be sued, don’t discriminate.?