AP News in Brief at 5:58 p.m. EDTBy AP
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
AP News in Brief at 5:58 p.m. EDT
Analysis: Outrage over arrest of Harvard scholar a signpost on bumpy road to equality
It took less than a day for the arrest of Henry Louis Gates to become racial lore. When one of America’s most prominent black intellectuals winds up in handcuffs, it’s not just another episode of profiling — it’s a signpost on the nation’s bumpy road to equality.
The news was parsed and Tweeted, rued and debated. This was, after all Henry “Skip” Gates: Summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Yale. MacArthur “genius grant” recipient. Acclaimed historian and PBS documentarian. One of Time magazine’s “25 Most Influential Americans” in 1997. Holder of 50 honorary degrees.
If this man can be taken away by police officers from the porch of his own home, what does it say about the treatment that average blacks can expect in 2009?
Earl Graves Jr., CEO of the company that publishes Black Enterprise magazine, was once stopped by police during his train commute to work, dressed in a suit and tie.
“My case took place back in 1995, and here we are 14 years later dealing with the same madness,” he said Tuesday. “Barack Obama being the president has meant absolutely nothing to white law enforcement officers. Zero. So I have zero confidence that (Gates’ case) will lead to any change whatsoever.”
AP NewsBreak: Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin implicated in ethics investigation of legal defense fund
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — An independent investigator has found evidence that Gov. Sarah Palin may have violated ethics laws by accepting private donations to pay her legal debts, in the latest legal distraction for the former vice presidential candidate as she prepares to leave office this week.
The report obtained by The Associated Press says Palin is securing unwarranted benefits and receiving improper gifts through the Alaska Fund Trust, set up by supporters.
An investigator for the state Personnel Board says in his July 14 report that there is probable cause to believe Palin used or attempted to use her official position for personal gain because she authorized the creation of the trust as the “official” legal defense fund.
The practical effect of the ruling on Palin will be more financial than anything else. The report recommends that Palin refuse to accept payment from the defense fund, and that the complaint be resolved without a formal hearing before the Alaska Personnel Board.
The fund aims to help Palin pay off debts stemming from multiple ethics complaints against her, most of which have been dismissed. Palin says she owes more than $500,000 in legal fees, and she cited the mounting toll of the ethics probes as one of the reasons she is leaving office.
Obama wins Senate fight to cut F-22 fighter jets, favor smaller planes for 21st century war
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate voted to terminate further production of the Air Force’s topline F-22 fighter jets Tuesday, giving President Barack Obama a major spending victory and siding with the Pentagon’s desire for smaller jets better suited to 21st century wars.
F-22 supporters complained the action would be a blow to long-term national defense — and cost thousands of jobs in the middle of the recession.
The 58-40 vote to cut the money from a $680 billion defense bill was a hard-fought victory for Obama, who had threatened to veto defense spending legislation if it included funds for more F-22s. Wavering lawmakers heard repeatedly from Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other senior administration officials.
The vote was “a signal that we are not going to continue to build weapons systems with cost overruns which outlive their requirements for defending this nation,” declared Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who joined Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin in arguing for cutting off production.
The $1.75 billion was aimed at adding seven F-22s to the current plan to deploy 187 of the twin-engine stealth planes. Of those 187, the Air Force has received 143 and is waiting for delivery of 44 more.
Democratic divisions over health care overhaul on display despite fresh plea from Obama
WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats put their divisions on display over the details and timing of health care legislation Tuesday despite fresh attempts by President Barack Obama to hasten a compromise on the issue that looms increasingly as a major test of his clout.
With a self-imposed deadline for action in jeopardy, the Democratic leadership juggled complaints from conservatives demanding additional cost savings, first-term lawmakers upset with proposed tax increases and objections from members of the rank-and-file opposed to allowing the government to sell insurance in competition with private industry.
“No one wants to tell the speaker that she’s moving too fast and they damn sure don’t want to tell the president,” Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., a key committee chairman, told a fellow lawmaker as the two walked into a closed-door meeting. The remark was overheard by reporters.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., vowed weeks ago that the House would vote by the end of July on legislation to meet two goals established by Obama months ago. The president wants legislation to extend health coverage to the tens of millions who now lack it, at the same time it restrains the growth in the cost of health care far into the future.
The president also has vowed that the legislation will not swell the deficit, although a senior administration official told reporters Tuesday that the pledge does not apply to an estimated $245 billion to increase fees for doctors serving Medicare patients over the next decade.
AP-GfK Poll: Great expectations for Obama give way to harsh realities, slip in approval rating
WASHINGTON (AP) — That was fast.
The hope and optimism that washed over the country in the opening months of Barack Obama’s presidency are giving way to harsh realities.
An Associated Press-GfK Poll shows that a majority of Americans are back to thinking that the country is headed in the wrong direction after a fleeting period in which more thought it was on the right track.
Obama still has a solid 55 percent approval rating — better than Bill Clinton and about even with George W. Bush six months into their presidencies — but there are growing doubts about whether he can succeed at some of the biggest items on his to-do list. And there is a growing sense that he is trying to tackle too much too soon.
The number of people who think Obama can improve the economy is down a sobering 19 percentage points from the euphoric days just before his inauguration. Ditto for expectations about creating jobs. Also down significantly: the share of people who think he can reduce the deficit, remove troops from Iraq and improve respect for the U.S. around the world, all slipping 15 points.
On overhauling health care, a signature issue for Obama, hopes for success are down a lesser 6 points.
How do you sneeze in a spacesuit? ‘Aim well,’ astronaut tells YouTube questioner
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — When it comes to sneezing in a spacesuit while in the void of space, it is best to aim well.
That’s the advice lead spacewalker David Wolf offered Tuesday while answering one of the questions posted on YouTube for the crew of the space shuttle Endeavor.
“I’ve done it quite a few times, most recently yesterday,” said Wolf, who led the mission’s second spacewalk Monday and was set to go on a third spacewalk Wednesday. “You learn in training, and I don’t know how to say this, aim well. It can mess up your view and there is no way to clear it.”
The YouTube questioners, mostly children and teenagers, had posted their questions well before last week’s launch of Endeavour on a 16-day mission to the international space station. Their posts were played one at a time for commander Mark Polansky, pilot Doug Hurley, Canadian astronaut Julie Payette and Wolf, who took turns answering the questions live, more than 200 miles above Earth.
Other questioners asked the astronauts what they missed most in space (friends and family), what they did in their spare time (look out the window) and what would happen if the shuttle or space station flew into a black hole (don’t know). There are currently 13 crew members at the space station — seven visiting from the shuttle and six living at the station.
Bernanke defends Fed’s ability to take on supercop role, unwind stimulus to prevent inflation
WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke ran into skepticism Tuesday from lawmakers wary of expanding the Fed’s duties to police big financial companies. They argued that the Fed failed to spot problems that led to the financial crisis in the first place.
“The Fed has made some big mistakes,” said Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee.
An Obama administration proposal to make the Fed the supercop of globally interconnected financial companies would be “just inviting a false sense of security that inevitably will be shattered at the expense of the taxpayer,” Bachus warned.
Bernanke countered that the administration’s proposal would be a “modest reorientation” of the Fed’s powers, not a great expansion of them.
The Fed boss sought to assure investors and Congress that the central bank will be able to reel in its extraordinary economic stimulus and prevent a flare up of inflation once a recovery is firmly rooted. Still, any such steps will be far off in the future. The central bank’s focus remains “fostering economic recovery,” he said.
Harvard scholar demands apology after prosecutors drop disorderly conduct charge
BOSTON (AP) — Prosecutors dropped a disorderly conduct charge Tuesday against prominent black scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., who was arrested by a white officer at his home near Harvard University after a report of a break-in.
The city of Cambridge issued a statement saying the arrest “was regrettable and unfortunate,” and police and Gates agreed that dropping the charge was a just resolution.
“This incident should not be viewed as one that demeans the character and reputation of professor Gates or the character of the Cambridge Police Department,” the statement said.
Still, the resolution of the case did not quell Gates’ anger. He said that he planned to talk to his legal team about the next step and that he planned to work on a documentary about racial profiling.
“I’m outraged,” he said in extensive comments made to TheRoot.com, a Web site he oversees. “I can’t believe that an individual policeman on the Cambridge police force would treat any African-American male this way, and I am astonished that this happened to me; and more importantly I’m astonished that it could happen to any citizen of the United States, no matter what their race.
AP IMPACT: From Andes to Argentina, Mexican drug cartels expand, operate in 47 countries
GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — Guatemalan drug boss Juan Jose “Juancho” Leon was summoned by Mexican traffickers for what he was told was business. Instead, dozens of attackers ambushed his entourage with grenades and assault rifles, killing Leon and 10 others in a brazen demonstration of power.
Mexican drug traffickers are branching out as never before — spreading their tentacles into 47 nations, including the U.S., Guatemala and even Colombia, long the heart of the drug trade in Latin America.
The expansion comes amid a military crackdown in Mexico and the arrests of major Colombian suppliers and poses a new challenge for efforts to stop the flow of drugs into the United States.
In dozens of interviews with officials and experts in seven countries, The Associated Press found that the Mexican mobs increasingly buy directly from the cocaine-producing Andes and have begun using countries as distant as Argentina to obtain the raw material for methamphetamine. Mexican gangsters have been arrested as far away as Malaysia as they seek new markets for cocaine and “meth” supply sources.
“There are more Mexican drug traffickers in South America today than at any time ever, period,” said Jay Bergman, the Andean regional director for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
ESPN reporter Erin Andrews surreptitiously videotaped nude in hotel, video posted on Web
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — ESPN reporter Erin Andrews was secretly videotaped in the nude while she was alone in a hotel room and the video was posted on the Internet, her attorney said.
The blurry, five-minute video shows Andrews standing in front of a hotel room mirror. It’s unknown when or where it was shot.
Andrews’ attorney, Marshall Grossman, confirmed Tuesday that the video posted on the Internet shows the 31-year-old reporter. He said she decided to confirm it “to put an end to rumor and speculation and to put the perpetrator and those who are complicit on notice that they act at their peril.”
Andrews plans to seek criminal charges and file civil lawsuits against the person who shot the video and anyone who publishes the material, Grossman said.
“While alone in the privacy of her hotel room, Erin Andrews was surreptitiously videotaped without her knowledge or consent,” Grossman said in an earlier statement. “She was the victim of a crime and is taking action to protect herself and help ensure that others are not similarly violated in the future.”
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