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Meanwhile, in Jesusland....


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Im2Sexy4MyPants
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« Reply #25 on: June 28, 2011, 12:44:54 am »

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Are you sick of the bullshit from the sewer stream media spewed out from the usual Ken and Barby dickless talking point look a likes.

If you want to know what's going on in the real world...
And the many things that will personally effect you.
Go to
http://www.infowars.com/

AND WAKE THE F_ _K UP
nitpicker1
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« Reply #26 on: August 03, 2011, 09:48:03 am »



Obama says austerity bill only a 'first step'
AFP
August 3, 2011, 6:57 am

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President Barack Obama on Tuesday signed a emergency austerity bill that averted a devastating debt default, but warned the contentious plan was "just the first step" on a long road to economic recovery. ...

wanna see the rest?  http://nz.news.yahoo.com/a/-/world/9955092/obama-says-austerity-bill-only-a-first-step/



meanwhile 
Apple Currently Has $3 Billion More in Cash than the U.S. Treasury
By Matt Kiebus Friday, July 29, 2011

 In four days Steve Jobs will become the dictator of the country formerly known as the United States.

...Putting the country’s financial position into perspective, The Financial Post’s Matt Hartley reported this stunning factoid Thursday night: Apple has more cash than the U.S. Treasury.

That’s right. The Treasury Department said Thursday that it has an operating balance of $73.768 billion, compared with the $76.156 billion in cash that Apple recorded on its latest earnings report.

Hartley was quick to point out that the numbers aren’t directly comparable, since the Treasury’s number represents how much money the government has before hitting the debt ceiling, while Apple’s cash holdings represent all the money it has available on its balance sheet....

http://www.deathandtaxesmag.com/125436/apple-currently-has-3-billion-more-in-cash-than-the-u-s-treasury/

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« Reply #27 on: August 08, 2011, 12:49:01 am »


From the Los Angeles Times....

High costs, malfunctions plague F-22 Raptor fighter jets

The fleet of 158 F-22 planes — costing $412 million each — has never
entered combat and has been grounded since May 3 because of
a government safety investigation. The probe follows more than
a dozen incidents in which oxygen was cut off to pilots, a problem
suspected of contributing to at least one fatal accident.


By W.J. Hennigan - Los Angeles Times | 7:47PM PDT - Saturday, August 06, 2011

The F-22 Raptor jet hasn’t been used in conflicts because its technology wasn’t needed, Air Force officials say, adding that the F-22 is worth its high price tag — an estimated $412 million each — because it is the “most advanced fighter aircraft, with unrivaled capabilities.” — Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images.
The F-22 Raptor jet hasn’t been used in conflicts because its technology wasn’t needed, Air Force officials
say, adding that the F-22 is worth its high price tag — an estimated $412 million each — because it is the
“most advanced fighter aircraft, with unrivaled capabilities.” — Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images.


IT'S the most expensive fighter jet ever built. Yet the F-22 Raptor has never seen a day of combat, and its future is clouded by a government safety investigation that has grounded the jet for months.

The fleet of 158 F-22s has been sidelined since May 03, after more than a dozen incidents in which oxygen was cut off to pilots, making them woozy. The malfunction is suspected of contributing to at least one fatal accident.

At an estimated cost of $412 million each, the F-22s amount to about $65 billion sitting on the tarmac. The grounding is the latest dark chapter for an aircraft plagued by problems, and whose need was called into question even before its first test flight.

The sleek, diamond-winged fighter was conceived during the Cold War in the early 1980s to thump a new generation of Soviet fighter jets in dogfights. But with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Soviet fighters that the U.S. military planners feared never moved beyond development and were never built.

Now, while other U.S. warplanes pummel targets, the F-22 has sat silently throughout battles in Afghanistan. It has gone unused in Iraq. There has been no call for it in the conflict above Libya.

"For all that gigantic cost, you have a system you can't even use," said Winslow T. Wheeler, a defense budget specialist and frequent Pentagon critic at the Center for Defense Information. "It's a fundamental explanation on how the country has gotten itself in the financial mess that it's in today."

Designed in Burbank and built in Marietta, Ga., the F-22 won the final go-ahead from Congress in 1991, thanks in part to a lobbying campaign by the plane's manufacturer, Lockheed Martin Corp. — then Lockheed Corp. — and its near 1,100 subcontractors in 44 states.

"The Cold War was over, it didn't make any sense to go forward with the program," said Thomas Christie, a retired official who worked 50 years at the Pentagon. "But the Air Force built up such a large constituency up on the Hill that it couldn't be killed."

The Air Force wanted an engineering marvel with unmatched features of any other aircraft. Lockheed Martin delivered.

F-22 engines have thrust-vectoring nozzles that can move up and down, making the plane exceptionally agile. It can reach supersonic speeds without using afterburners, enabling the plane to fly faster and farther. It's also packed with cutting-edge radar and sensors, allowing the pilot to identify, track and shoot an aircraft before the enemy pilot can detect the F-22.

"The Air Force piled it all on," said Pierre Sprey, an aeronautical engineer who helped design the F-16 and A-10 jets. "It became a vehicle to carry a laundry list of technologies. The plane is a textbook case on the dangers of complexity."

As the Air Force saw more opportunities for design changes, the F-22 grew in cost. When the plane first entered service in 2005, it didn't take long for problems to arise.

In 2006, an F-22 pilot was stuck in the plane on the ground for five hours because the canopy wouldn't pop open. Firefighters had to cut the pilot out. A replacement canopy cost about $71,000, the Air Force said.

In 2007, a software error in the navigational systems caused 12 F-22s to turn around from a flight to Okinawa, Japan, from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii. Six days later, engineers corrected the error at a cost of between $200,000 and $300,000, the Air Force estimated.

Last year, the fighters were inspected for rust corrosion "due to poorly designed drainage in the cockpit," according to the House Armed Services Committee. Fourteen F-22s had rusting parts in the cockpit replaced, the Air Force said.

Corrosion has also been an issue with the plane's radar-evading skin, which, the U.S. Government Accountability Office said, is "difficult to manage and maintain, requiring nearly twice the number of maintenance personnel as anticipated."

The plane takes about 3,000 people to maintain, the Air Force said. The service calculated that for every hour in the air, the F-22 spends 45 hours undergoing maintenance.

Two decades ago, the U.S. government planned to buy 648 of the fighters for $139 million apiece; the cost has almost tripled since then to $412 million, the Government Accountability Office said.

Recently retired Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates ended the purchase in 2009 at 188 planes, only a handful of which are still being built. The $273-million increase per plane translates to $51.3 billion in lost buying power for the F-22 program.

"The reality is we are fighting two wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the F-22 has not performed a single mission in either theater," Gates told a congressional panel in 2008.

Air Force officials said the F-22 hasn't been used in conflicts because its technology wasn't needed. They added that all aircraft have problems that crop up, and that the F-22 is worth the high price tag because it is the "most advanced fighter aircraft, with unrivaled capabilities."

"The aircraft was designed for high-threat environments, not what we've seen in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya," said Lt. Col. E. John Teichert, who until recently commanded the F-22 squadron at Edwards Air Force Base. "If the F-22 prevents a military engagement with another country, it is well worth the money."

Even though the F-22 has never been sent over a war zone, it has experienced seven major crashes with two casualties — one of which may have been linked to the oxygen malfunction.

Capt. Jeff Haney, 31, was killed in a F-22 after a crash in the Alaskan wilderness in November near Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. An ongoing Air Force investigation is examining the oxygen system as part of its probe.

The Air Force said the order in May to keep the planes grounded was caused by 14 instances since June 2008 in which pilots experienced sickness related to bad oxygen flow.

The Air Force said its investigation into the accident and oxygen problems "is currently scheduled to be completed and delivered to the secretary of the Air Force this coming fall."

The oxygen system problems have compelled the government to examine its forthcoming F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which is also made by Lockheed. The F-35 is smaller than the F-22 and will be used jointly by the Navy, Marines and Air Force. The Pentagon plans to buy 2,457 F-35s.

John P. Jumper, a retired Air Force general, former Air Force chief of staff to President George W. Bush and fierce backer of the F-22 program, said the F-22 problems need to be resolved soon so the planes and pilots return to service.

"It's very troublesome," he said. "This is the sort of thing that deserves a thorough examination so it never can happen again."


http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-fighter-jets-grounded-20110807,0,4799249,full.story
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« Reply #28 on: August 08, 2011, 07:29:34 pm »


Ticket for running engine ends spending in town

Letters to the Editor - The Durango Herald | Thursday, August 04, 2011

I ARRIVED  arrived in Durango in June around 4 p.m. I stopped to meet with a real estate agent to plan the next two days to look for our second home. The meeting lasted about one hour. Our next stop was going to be Lake Vallecito, where we stayed for three nights while looking for real estate.

It was above 80 degrees in Durango, and my wife and I travel with three dogs. I was not going to leave them in the full sun without leaving my truck running with the air conditioner on. I put a steering wheel locking device on and left my truck running. The dogs would have died from the heat build up in the truck, and that was not an option for me. When we returned to my truck, I was given a ticket for leaving my engine running. I completed a written appeal with the city, which was turned down, and now I owe $15.

My wife and I ended up purchasing a home in South Fork, and we need everything: furniture, patio furniture, two TVs, everything for the kitchen, bedrooms, bathrooms, vacuums, garage storage shelves, a Polaris, etc. Paying the $15 was ridiculous, given my alternatives, but better than killing my dogs. My wife and I were planning on doing all of our purchasing in Durango, but I am not willing to be given another ticket nor will I kill my dogs.

I wonder how large the ticket would be if I left my engine off and all three dogs died? I will never shop in Durango, and the local merchants large and small have their city to thank for that. I guess Durango is not part of the Great Recession.

I now plan to drive farther and do my shopping in Colorado Springs. Sorry.

Ross Wait
Yuma, Arizona


http://www.durangoherald.com/article/20110805/OPINION03/708059963/0/opinion/Ticket-for-running-engine-ends-spending-in-town



I reckon the town of Duranga (in Colorado) has had a very lucky escape from being infested by a fossil-fuels wasting wanker! 



ONLY in America, eh? 

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« Reply #29 on: March 13, 2012, 07:18:54 pm »



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« Reply #30 on: April 14, 2012, 11:41:46 pm »


From the Los Angeles Times....

The voice of today's GOP: Allen West says Democrats are commies

By DAVID HORSEY | 5:00AM - Thursday, April 12, 2012



REPRESENTATIVE ALLEN WEST, one of the loosest cannons in the Republican arsenal, believes there are about 80 members of the Communist Party in the United States Congress.

Tuesday night at a town hall meeting in Jensen Beach, Florida, one of West’s constituents asked him how many “card-carrying Marxists or international socialists” there were in Congress. Without hesitation, Allen responded, “I believe there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party that are members of the Communist Party.”

He went on to identify them as the Congressional Progressive Caucus, a group within the Democratic caucus that wants to end corporate welfare for oil, gas and coal companies, rebuild the country’s infrastructure, expedite an end to the war in Afghanistan and eliminate tax cuts for the top 2% of Americans while extending tax relief for the middle class. Now, that may not sound like communism to you, but to West, such scary ideas apparently reek of Bolshevism. (Note to Representative West: solid majorities of voters tell pollsters they support every one of those proposals — the commies have already won!)

Democrats are a wee bit offended. They say West’s remarks are reminiscent of Republican Senator Joe McCarthy’s anticommunist witch-hunt in the 1950s. Well, yeah. But I think we are a long way from another Red Scare. Compared with the powerful McCarthy, the first-term congressman from Florida’s balmy beaches is a pipsqueak.

What makes West’s comment notable is how it is only a tiny stretch beyond the rhetoric being employed by many more prominent Republicans. Policy proposals like healthcare mandates, cap-and-trade and immigration reform that were once being touted by Republicans — radical lefties such as Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and George W. Bush — are now branded as treacherous schemes to create a godless, socialist America. Throughout the primary campaign, GOP presidential candidates from Michele Bachmann to Rick Santorum have talked as if the 2012 election is the nation’s last chance to save the United States from becoming a clone of the Soviet Union.

These days, Republican town hall meetings often take on the tone of John Birch Society gatherings. Alarmed citizens stand up to speak of dark conspiracies and Democratic Party schemes to destroy the Constitution. Apparently, the meeting where West made his remarks ran along those lines. And, when the man stood up to ask about the percentage of card-carrying commies in the Congress, West first said, “That’s a good question.”

No it wasn’t. It was a crazy, paranoid question. Four years ago, when a woman at one of his rallies began to rant about Barack Obama being an anti-American Muslim, presidential candidate John McCain took the microphone away and said she was wrong. Obama was a good American and a good family man with whom he simply disagreed, McCain said.

This time around, no one is as brave as McCain. In a similar campaign setting with a similar comment from the crowd about “Muslim” Obama, Santorum just played along. Romney has masked his natural moderation with constant panders to the paranoids. It is hard to imagine Romney, Santorum or any Republican leader calling out Allen West for saying progressive Democrats are Communist Party members.

John McCain would, but then he’s a war hero who learned the hard way what real communists are like. These new would-be party leaders are no heroes. In fact, they are not so much leaders as they are cheerleaders turning cartwheels to please the most bellicose voices in the crowd.


http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/la-na-tt-democrats-are-commies-20120411,0,1232324.story
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« Reply #31 on: May 11, 2012, 02:31:18 am »


From the Los Angeles Times....

Tattoo in sheriff's deputy clique may have celebrated shootings, sources say

One Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy, who has admitted
belonging to a clique called the ‘Jump Out Boys’, has identified
about half a dozen other members, one source confirmed.


By ROBERT FATURECHI | 6:06PM - Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Officials suspect smoke is added to this tattoo when a member of the deputies' clique is involved in a shooting.
Officials suspect smoke is added to this tattoo when a member of the deputies' clique
is involved in a shooting.


THE INVESTIGATION into a secret clique within the Los Angeles County sheriff's elite gang unit has uncovered allegations that members had matching tattoos of a gun-toting skeleton, which deputies would modify to celebrate their involvement in a shooting, according to sources close to the internal probe.

One deputy, who has admitted belonging to a clique called the "Jump Out Boys", has identified about half a dozen other deputies as members, one source confirmed. Those men are expected to be summoned for interviews with internal affairs investigators, the source said.

Suspicion about the group's existence was sparked several weeks ago when a supervisor discovered a pamphlet laying out the group's creed, which promoted aggressive policing and portrayed officer shootings in a positive light.

The pamphlet was found in the vehicle used by the deputy who acknowledged his association with the clique, according to sources who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the ongoing investigation.

Days after The Times reported on the discovery of the pamphlet, the captain of the division gathered his deputies for a private briefing, during which he told them they had shamed the department by forming the group and urged those responsible to identify themselves, a source with knowledge of the unit's inner workings said.

At some point, one deputy came forward, and he has since named about six others, the source said.

Internal affairs investigators are trying to determine whether the deputies violated Sheriff's Department rules or committed serious misconduct.

The deputies under scrutiny all work on the Gang Enforcement Team, a unit divided into two platoons of relatively autonomous deputies whose job is to target neighborhoods where gang violence is high, locate armed gang members and take their guns away.

The design of the tattoo, confirmed by two sources, includes an oversize skull with a wide, toothy grimace and glowing red eyes. A bandanna wraps around the skull, imprinted with the letters "OSS" — representing Operation Safe Streets, the name of the larger unit that the Gang Enforcement Team is part of. A bony hand clasps a revolver. Investigators suspect that smoke is tattooed over the gun's barrel after a member is involved in a shooting.

To the left of the skull are two playing cards — an ace and an eight — apparently an allusion to the "dead man's" poker hand, sources said.

One source compared the notion of modifying the tattoo after a shooting to a celebratory "high five."

Celebrating shootings and sporting matching tattoos were hallmarks of anti-gang officers in the LAPD's troubled Rampart Division in the late 1990s.

A corruption scandal erupted after one disgraced officer implicated himself and others in covering up bad shootings, planting evidence, falsifying reports and perjuring themselves to rid the streets of gang members and drug dealers.

In fact, the tattoo allegedly embraced by the Jump Out Boys is reminiscent of the one inked on Rampart officers, which consisted of a grinning skull in a cowboy hat with pairs of aces and eights fanned out in the background.

Sources say there is no evidence that deputies alleged to be in the clique have been involved in improper shootings or other misconduct. But the new revelations have heightened concerns.

The modified tattoos could also pose problems for the department in future litigation, making it more difficult for county attorneys to argue against lawsuits alleging bad shootings.

Sheriff Lee Baca's spokesman, Steve Whitmore, declined to discuss details of the investigation because it is ongoing. "We take this very seriously," he said. "This is absolutely no joke whatsoever."

The department has been grappling with unsanctioned cliques in its ranks for decades.

Last year, the department fired a group of deputies who all worked on the third, or "3000," floor of Men's Central Jail after the group fought two fellow deputies at an employee Christmas party and allegedly punched a female deputy in the face.

Sheriff's officials later said the men had formed an aggressive "3000" clique that used gang-like three-finger hand signs. A former top jail commander told The Times that jailers would "earn their ink" by breaking inmates' bones.

The Jump Out Boys, sources said, was a name coined by Compton-area gang members alluding to how quickly deputies from the unit would jump out of patrol vehicles to stop them.

Other cliques — with names like Grim Reapers, Little Devils, Regulators and Vikings — have been accused of breeding a gang-like mentality in which deputies falsify police reports, perjure themselves and cover up misconduct. Past affiliation with such groups reaches the highest levels of the department.

Baca acknowledged last year that his second-in-command, Paul Tanaka, has a Vikings tattoo. Tanaka has said the Vikings was a nickname for deputies assigned to the Lynwood station and did not represent anything sinister.

Some argue that the groups are not inherently problematic, providing cops working a dangerous job with camaraderie and emotional support. Experts say cliques become a problem when they push officers to put their comrades ahead of the law and department policy.

What investigators are most concerned about with the Jump Out Boys isn't the alleged matching tattoos, but the suspected admiration they show for shootings. Officer-involved shootings are expected to be events of last resort.

Maria Haberfeld, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York who specializes in police ethics and training, said joining police subcultures makes officers "vulnerable to be compromised by group think and group pressure." Tattoos that further distinguish officers involved in shootings, she said, are particularly problematic.

"Even though they are authorized to use deadly force, I don't think it's a cause for celebration," she said. "When you reach a point in your career that you have no choice but to use deadly force, if anything it's incredibly traumatic for the shooter. It's a little bizarre to commemorate a tragic event."


http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-sheriff-clique-20120510,0,728956.story
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« Reply #32 on: May 13, 2012, 01:41:34 am »


From the Los Angeles Times....

Air Force safety measures attempt to address F-22 Raptor concerns

The Air Force reveals training, tests and other changes made in response
to concerns about oxygen systems on its F-22 Raptor fighter jet.


By W. J. HENNIGAN | Saturday, May 12, 2012

An F-22 Raptor's weapon bays are visible during a demonstration at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia, in April. — Photo: Steve Helber/Associated Press/April 30, 2012.
An F-22 Raptor's weapon bays are visible during a demonstration at Langley Air Force Base
in Hampton, Virginia, in April. — Photo: Steve Helber/Associated Press/April 30, 2012.


IN RESPONSE to growing concern about problems with its F-22 Raptor fighter jet, the Air Force revealed it has slapped on new safety restrictions to protect its pilots.

The announcement came as Senator Mark R. Warner (Democrat — Virginia) and Representative Adam Kinzinger (Republican — Illinois) Friday requested additional information from the secretary of the Air Force to further determine the scope of safety concerns raised by several pilots of the world's most expensive fighter jet, designed and built byLockheed Martin Corp.

The Air Force acknowledged last week that some of the nation's top aviators are refusing to fly the radar-evading F-22, a fighter jet with ongoing problems with its oxygen systems that have plagued the fleet for four years.

"The health and safety of our pilots — all of our pilots — is the utmost priority," said Brigadier General Daniel O. Wyman, an Air Force command surgeon. "Our operational flight surgeons and medical staff interact with our pilots on a daily basis, and mission No.1 is their health and safety."

The comments, posted on the Air Force's website, were meant to address the growing attention directed at the safety of the F-22. Concerns have grown in recent months as no clear explanations have emerged for why pilots are reporting hypoxia-like symptoms in the air. Hypoxia is a condition that can bring on nausea, headaches, fatigue or blackouts when the body is deprived of oxygen.

The F-22 is considered the most advanced fighter jet in the world. It entered military service in 2005, and the Air Force received the last of its order of 188 planes last week.

The plane can reach supersonic speeds without using afterburners, enabling it to fly faster and farther. It's also packed with cutting-edge radar and sensors, enabling a pilot to identify, track and shoot an enemy aircraft before that craft can detect the F-22. The Air Force says the aircraft is essential to maintain air dominance around the world.

According to the Air Force, each of the sleek, diamond-winged aircraft costs $143 million. Counting upgrades and research and development costs, the U.S. Government Accountability Office estimates each F-22 costs taxpayers $412 million.

While other warplanes in the U.S. arsenal have been used to pummel targets in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, the Air Force's F-22s have sat largely idle — used only in test missions. Even so, throughout the jet's development, F-22 pilots have been in seven serious crashes, resulting in two fatalities.

Over the years, F-22 pilots have reported dozens of incidents in which the jet's systems weren't feeding them enough oxygen, causing wooziness. This issue led to the grounding of the entire F-22 fleet last year for nearly five months. But even after the grounding was lifted, the Air Force said investigators could not find a smoking gun.

The Air Force lifted the grounding last September. When that happened, Wyman revealed this week, the Air Force put all F-22 pilots through retraining so they would know their own specific hypoxia symptoms. It also affixed a device to pilots' fingers that measures the amount of oxygen in the blood while they are in the cockpit.

The Air Force also added a high-efficiency particulate air filter consisting of activated carbon and charcoal, Wyman said. "It was cleared for flight use by theU.S. Air Forceprogram office and has been used by the military for over a decade in the ground crew and aircrew ensembles," he said.

At the end of each flight, pilots turned in the filters to be examined by Air Force personnel.

Black dust was found in some of the breathing hoses.

"We analyzed it and found it to be activated carbon dust ... an inert or nonreactive compound that has been used for air and water filtration for decades without any significant evidence of harm," Wyman said. The dust was "well below the industrial hygiene standard levels set by government agencies," he said.

In addition, Wyman revealed, the Air Force conducted throat swabs of F-22 pilots, and those indicated no evidence of harmful substances. Even so, pilots reported persistent coughing, which they call the "Raptor cough."

"Coughing is a natural physiologic response that serves to re-inflate the air sacs," Wyman said.

Last Sunday, two F-22 pilots appeared with Representative Kinzinger on CBS' "60 Minutes" to discuss reasons why they refused to fly the jet. At the risk of significant reprimand — or even discharge from the Air Force — Virginia Air National Guard Captain Joshua Wilson and Major Jeremy Gordon said they would not fly the F-22 until the oxygen problems were solved.

Since the segment aired, other pilots have contacted Senator Warner of Virginia, which is home to one of the seven military bases where F-22s are based.

"After meeting with these pilots, and having conversations with many other knowledgeable individuals, we would recommend an immediate, confidential and anonymous safety survey of all active duty and reservist F-22 crews, pilots and flight surgeons to definitively document the scope and frequency of these hypoxia-like incidents," Warner and Kinzinger wrote in a letter to Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley. "It is our view that such a survey could be initiated within 10 days, and our offices would expect to receive timely updates both on the survey methodology and the results shortly thereafter."

The Air Force did not reveal how many of its 200 F-22 pilots had declined to fly the jet.


http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-0512-f22-reactions-20120512,0,7723915.story
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« Reply #33 on: May 13, 2012, 11:18:53 pm »


From the Los Angeles Times....

The frequent fliers who flew too much

Many years after selling lifetime passes for unlimited
first-class travel, American Airlines began
scrutinizing the costs — and the customers.


By KEN BENSINGER | 6:14PM - Saturday, May 05, 2012

For many years, Steven Rothstein, left, and Jacques Vroom held lifetime unlimited first-class tickets with American Airlines. — Photos: Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/Hans Kundnani/May 07, 2012.
For many years, Steven Rothstein, left, and Jacques Vroom held lifetime unlimited first-class tickets
with American Airlines. — Photos: Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/Hans Kundnani/May 07, 2012.


THERE ARE frequent fliers, and then there are people like Steven Rothstein and Jacques Vroom.

Both men bought tickets that gave them unlimited first-class travel for life on American Airlines. It was almost like owning a fleet of private jets.

Passes in hand, Rothstein and Vroom flew for business. They flew for pleasure. They flew just because they liked being on planes. They bypassed long lines, booked backup itineraries in case the weather turned, and never worried about cancellation fees. Flight crews memorized their names and favorite meals.

Each had paid American more than $350,000 for an unlimited AAirpass and a companion ticket that allowed them to take someone along on their adventures. Both agree it was the best purchase they ever made, one that completely redefined their lives.

In the 2009 film "Up in the Air", the loyal American business traveler played by George Clooney was showered with attention after attaining 10 million frequent flier miles.

Rothstein and Vroom were not impressed.

"I can't even remember when I cracked 10 million," said Vroom, 67, a big, amiable Texan, who at last count had logged nearly four times as many. Rothstein, 61, has notched more than 30 million miles.

But all the miles they and 64 other unlimited AAirpass holders racked up went far beyond what American had expected. As its finances began deteriorating a few years ago, the carrier took a hard look at the AAirpass program.

Heavy users, including Vroom and Rothstein, were costing it millions of dollars in revenue, the airline concluded.

The AAirpass system had rules. A special "revenue integrity unit" was assigned to find out whether any of these rules had been broken, and whether the passes that were now such a drag on profits could be revoked.

Rothstein, Vroom and other AAirpass holders had long been treated like royalty. Now they were targets of an investigation.


WHEN American introduced the AAirpass in 1981, it saw a chance to raise millions of dollars for expansion at a time of record-high interest rates.

It was, and still is, offered in a variety of formats, including prepaid blocks of miles. But the marquee item was the lifetime unlimited AAirpass, which started at $250,000. Pass holders earned frequent flier miles on every trip and got lifetime memberships to the Admirals Club, American's VIP lounges. For an extra $150,000, they could buy a companion pass. Older fliers got discounts based on their age.

"We thought originally it would be something that firms would buy for top employees," said Bob Crandall, American's chairman and chief executive from 1985 to 1998. "It soon became apparent that the public was smarter than we were."

The unlimited passes were bought mostly by wealthy individuals, including baseball Hall-of-Famer Willie Mays, America's Cup skipper Dennis Conner and computer magnate Michael Dell.

Mike Joyce of Chicago bought his in 1994 after winning a $4.25-million settlement after a car accident.

In one 25-day span this year, Joyce flew round trip to London 16 times, flights that would retail for more than $125,000. He didn't pay a dime.

"I love Rome, I love Sydney, I love Athens," Joyce said by phone from the Admirals Club at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. "I love Vegas and Frisco."

Rothstein had loved flying since his years at Brown University in Rhode Island, where he would buy a $99 weekend pass on Mohawk Air and fly to Buffalo, New York, just for a sandwich.

He bought his AAirpass in 1987 for his work in investment banking. After he added a companion pass two years later, it "kind of took hold of me," said Rothstein, a heavyset man with a kind smile.

He was airborne almost every other day. If a friend mentioned a new exhibit at the Louvre, Rothstein thought nothing of jetting from his Chicago home to San Francisco to pick her up and then fly to Paris together.

In July 2004, for example, Rothstein flew 18 times, visiting Nova Scotia, New York, Miami, London, Los Angeles, Maine, Denver and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., some of them several times over. The complexity of such itineraries would stump most travelers; happily for AAirpass holders, American provided elite agents able to solve the toughest booking puzzles.

They could help AAirpass customers make multiple reservations in case they missed a flight, or nab the last seat on the only plane leaving during a snowstorm. Some say agents even procured extra elbow room by booking an empty seat using a phony name on companion passes.

"I'd book it as Extra Lowe," said Peter Lowe, a motivational speaker from West Palm Beach, Florida. "They told me how to do it."

Vroom, a former mail-order catalog consultant, used his AAirpass to attend all his son's college football games in Maine. He built up so many frequent flier miles that he'd give them away, often to AIDS sufferers so they could visit family. Crew members knew him by name.

"There was one flight attendant, Pierre, who knew exactly what I wanted," Vroom said. "He'd bring me three salmon appetizers, no dessert and a glass of champagne, right after takeoff. I didn't even have to ask."

Creative uses seemed limitless. When bond broker Willard May of Round Rock, Texas, was forced into retirement after a run-in with federal securities regulators in the early 1990s, he turned to his trusty AAirpass to generate income. Using his companion ticket, he began shuttling a Dallas couple back and forth to Europe for $2,000 a month.

"For years, that was all the flying I did," said May, 81. "It's how I got the bills paid."

In 1990, the airline raised the price of an unlimited AAirpass with companion to $600,000. In 1993, it was bumped to $1.01 million. In 1994, American stopped selling unlimited passes altogether.

Cable TV executive Leo Hindery Jr. bought a five-year AAirpass in 1991, with an option to upgrade to lifetime after three years. American later "asked me not to convert," he said. "They were gracious. They said the program had been discontinued and if I gave my pass back, they'd give me back my money."

Hindery declined, even rebuffing a personal appeal by American's Crandall (which the executive said he did not recall). To date, he has accumulated 11.5 million miles on a pass that cost him about $500,000, including an age discount and credit from his five-year pass.

"It was a lot of money at the time," Hindery said. "But once you get past that, you forget it."

In 2004, American offered the unlimited AAirpass one last time, in the Neiman-Marcus Christmas catalog. At $3 million, plus a companion pass for $2 million more, none sold.


RAISED just miles from American's Fort Worth headquarters, Bridget Cade started in its reservations department in 1990. In 2007, she was promoted to the elite revenue integrity team, charged with rooting out passengers, travel agents and others suspected of cheating the airline.

Her first big job was to investigate AAirpass users.

In September 2007, a pricing analyst reviewing international routes focused the airline's attention on how much the AAirpass program was costing, company emails show.

"We pay the taxes," a revenue management executive wrote in a subsequent email. "We award AAdvantage miles, and we lose the seat every time they fly."

Cade was assigned to find out whether any AAirpass holders were violating the rules, starting with those who flew the most.

She pulled years of flight records for Rothstein and Vroom and calculated that each was costing American more than $1 million a year.

Rothstein, she found, would sometimes pick out strangers at the airport and give them surprise first-class upgrades with his companion pass. Once he flew a woman he'd just met in New Delhi to Chicago, a lift American later valued at nearly $7,500.

There was nothing in the AAirpass terms prohibiting that. But Cade considered the habit striking in light of something else she found. Rothstein made 3,009 reservations in less than four years, almost always booking two seats, but canceled 2,523 of them.

To Cade, this was evidence that Rothstein reserved flights he never intended to take. It also allowed him to hold seats until the last minute and offer them to strangers, she said later in court depositions, preventing American from selling them. Cade decided it was fraud and grounds for revocation.

On December 13, 2008, Rothstein and a companion checked in at Chicago O'Hare International Airport for a transatlantic flight. An American employee handed him a letter, which said his AAirpass had been terminated for "fraudulent behavior."

He apologized to his friend and filed suit in Illinois the following March.

Vroom's travel history told a different story, Cade found. Time and again, he booked trips with people he'd never flown with before, traveling round-trip to Japan or Europe without even staying overnight.

"We suspect he is selling his AAirpass companion tickets," Cade wrote in a February 2008 email. That, she later said, was against the rules.

She decided to try to catch him in the act.

Checking Vroom's bookings for first-timers, Cade came across Auyon Mukharji, a recent college graduate abroad on a music scholarship. He was scheduled to fly from London to Nashville with Vroom on July 30, 2008.

Working with airline security, Cade hatched a plan to confront Mukharji at London's Heathrow Airport, challenging him to admit he had paid Vroom.

"Mukharji appears to be naive, without financial wherewithal, and most probably very anxious to return ‘home’," American's head of global investigations wrote in an email.

At check-in, American agents detained Mukharji and escorted him to a private office. A former New York police detective working in American security offered a free ticket to Nashville if he'd confess to giving Vroom money.

But Mukharji insisted he hadn't, and American ultimately released him and gave him a coach ticket home. He could not be reached for comment.

Vroom landed at Heathrow that morning. As he boarded American Flight 50 from Dallas/Fort Worth to London the evening before, security officers took note of the clothes he was wearing, down to the Crocs on his feet.

Inside Heathrow, Vroom headed for the VIP lounge, where an American employee handed him a letter and said he could never again fly on the airline.

Vroom was shocked, unable to believe that his golden ticket was gone. He told the airline he had met Mukharji through a friend and, because both had attended Williams College in Massachusetts, simply offered him a ride to the U.S. as a friendly gesture.

With Mukharji insisting he had not paid for his ticket, Cade and her team began tracking down other Vroom flight companions.

In one instance, an American security agent called Sam Mulroy, a Dallas personal trainer who had been set to fly with Vroom to Europe, and told him his trip had been canceled. The agent promised a first-class ticket if he admitted to paying Vroom, according to company emails and correspondence.

When Mulroy refused, American froze his frequent flier account, offering to release it in exchange for details of payments, the documents show. Mulroy complained to American and the Transportation Department that he was being "extorted [in] an effort to punish another customer." He did not respond to requests for comment.

Weeks later, American sued Vroom in Texas state court. Vroom countersued.

In discovery, company lawyers tracked down a Dallas woman who had cut Vroom a $2,800 check to fly her son to London. An elderly couple gave him $6,000 for a trip to Paris. And bank records showed more than $100,000 in checks to Vroom written by owners of a local jewelry store who frequently flew with Vroom.

Vroom admits to getting money from some flying companions, but says it was usually for his business advice and not payments for flights. Other times people insisted on paying him, he said.

Cade wasn't done. In early 2009, the phone rang at the home of Willard May, the former bond broker who openly sold his ticket when he was forced out of work. His AAirpass, too, had been yanked.

"I never tried to deceive American," said May, noting that the Dallas Morning News in 1993 published an article quoting him and an American official about the practice.

Still, May didn't make a fuss when the call came. He'd grown tired of flying.


THESE DAYS, Vroom busies himself substitute teaching and hosting lectures in a custom-made cinder-block home in a hip Dallas neighborhood.

His lawyers say the seat-selling accusation is moot because Vroom's contract didn't prohibit it; American didn't ban the practice until three years after Vroom bought his pass.

Rothstein also denies committing fraud, saying his contract did not ban making multiple reservations. "It sure seems like the airline was looking for an excuse to be rid of my client," said Gary Soter, Rothstein's attorney.

Last summer, an Illinois federal judge ruled that Rothstein had violated the contract by booking empty seats under phony names, including Bag Rothstein. American had years earlier acknowledged that "airport personnel have become complacent" with the practice, court records show, and Soter planned to appeal. But that case and Vroom's were thrown into limbo when American's parent company, AMR Corp., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November.

American spokeswoman Mary Sanderson said the canceled passes are "very isolated and represent an extremely small percentage of our overall AAirpass accounts."

"We actively analyze all of our ticketing and program policies for any improper activity," she said. "If we determine that any activity has violated our policies or is fraudulent in nature, we take the actions we deem appropriate."

Cade investigated at least two other AAirpass holders, court records show, and concluded that both also had committed fraud. American declined to say why their passes had not been revoked.

Rothstein moved to New York in 2009 and works for a trading firm. His office is crammed with family photos and reminders of exotic locales he visited flying American. Among his possessions is a 1998 letter on company stationery from Bob Crandall, with whom Rothstein once flew on the supersonic Concorde.

"I am delighted that you've enjoyed your AAirpass investment," the executive wrote. "You can count on us to keep the company solid, and to honor the deal, far into the future."


http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-0506-golden-ticket-20120506,0,3094073,full.story
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« Reply #34 on: May 13, 2012, 11:56:05 pm »


From the Los Angeles Times....

HOMETOWN U.S.A.: Las Vegas

A $13.9-million dream house

In a town wracked by foreclosures, Daniel Coletti's
10,700-square-foot home with glass walls, infinity
pool and 17-car garage is the most expensive
residential property for sale. All that's
needed now is a dream buyer.


By JOHN M. GLIONNA | 8:09PM - Saturday, May 12, 2012

Daniel Coletti makes his way down a spiral wooden staircase inside his mountaintop home in Las Vegas. It sits on land bought by Howard Hughes in the 1950s. — Photo: Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times/April 10, 2012.
Daniel Coletti makes his way down a spiral wooden staircase inside his mountaintop home
in Las Vegas. It sits on land bought by Howard Hughes in the 1950s.
 — Photo: Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times/April 10, 2012.


AMONG all the special places inside his sprawling 10,700-square-foot mountaintop home, Daniel Coletti savors the vibe inside the living room most.

It's a luxury dreamscape distinguished by mammoth walls of glass and Idaho-hewn stone. At night, he gazes out past the blue waters of an indoor-outdoor infinity pool and onto a vast citywide vista capped by the shimmering lights of the Strip.

"It's like looking at a fire," his wife, Natalie, said. "You can't turn your eyes from it."

The property has another unique feature: Offered at $13.9 million, it's the most expensive residential listing in Las Vegas.

By California standards, it's a reasonable price for such a high-end home, but in Vegas' foreclosure-wracked real estate market — with a median sales price of just over $100,000 — the cost is stratospheric. So, how do sellers dwelling in the rarefied air atop real estate's Mount Olympus sell their homes?

Do you advertise for buyers in Los Angeles, New York and London? How do you determine who gets inside your mansion-sweet-mansion? If you're Coletti, the answer is simple: You advertise locally, assured that the right buyer will eventually emerge in this city of high-rollers and blank checks.

You also describe it with an appropriate Vegas flourish. Coletti writes online that the residence "blurs the lines between the interior and exterior spaces leaving one to wonder where a room ends and the outside begins."

Coletti, who designed and built the home through his company, Sun West Custom Homes, advertised the expansive windows, porte-cochere, double-island kitchen, wine and theater room — all illustrated by photographs that cost him thousands.

If F. Scott Fitzgerald's Jay Gatsby owned a house in Las Vegas, Coletti's home might be it. The five-bedroom, two-story residence sits on 25,000 acres, one of the last prized parcels of rugged desert terrain purchased by Howard Hughes in the 1950s.

The garage can house 17 cars. At 2,700 square feet, the pool is bigger than most people's homes. To reach Coletti's front door, a visitor must pass through four security gates, giving the exclusive aura of not just the nation's 1%, but maybe its 0.01%. Even the two family dogs have a room of their own.

But such top-end sellers also take precautions, such as conducting financial background checks on any buyer before rolling out the red carpet for a personal home tour, real estate experts say.

With hundreds of elite homes here, the market has remained steady: In December 2006, 21 single-family homes valued at $5 million or more were up for sale. A year later, there were 27.

Coletti's home serves as a reminder that, for all the city's troubles, Las Vegas is still a showcase for the glamorous. His firm has designed, built and sold 497 properties here since he moved to Las Vegas in 1989. But his own residence is more than just another real estate transaction.

The home is his personal masterpiece, an earth-toned chameleon that blends into the desert landscape around it. Coletti, 48, learned his design sensibilities from his mother, Cindy, a home builder who encouraged him to follow in her footsteps.

Coletti later earned a degree in building construction technology and has received architecture training, but like his mother, takes an intuitive, rather than a textbook, approach to his work.

In 2008, he said, he became captivated by the undeveloped hillside property 10 miles west of the Strip. The tract is owned by Summerlin Corporation, a firm developing the acreage Hughes once envisioned as a site of a supersonic airport.

"I stood on this piece of property every other day for a couple of weeks, at different times of the day," Coletti said. "Slowly an image came to me."

His unconventional design included an open floor plan with oversized motorized glass doors that allowed for expansive views of the mountain, city and nearby golf course from every major room. Glass walls pulled aside, many of the rooms are left open-air during temperate months.

His wife's favorite feature: a dining room that juts out into the pool like a peninsula. "Oh man," she said. "When you open the doors and eat at night, it's crazy. The water is right there at your feet."

The residence observes few class distinctions: Despite its size, there are no maid's quarters because the family does its own housework. Coletti's 20-year-old son, Chris, maintains the 68,000-gallon pool, and the outside desert landscaping takes little maintenance.

Still, the home builder is restless. That's why he's selling. Coletti has ideas for a new residence with a few design twists that will better suit his family after the two eldest of his four children leave home in the next few years.

But Coletti discovered that high-end buyers' tastes can be finicky. He first offered his home for sale a year ago at $16 million, but scaled back the price, sensing that $1,200 a square-foot would be more competitive.

Still, real estate agents here say, seller beware. People just can't be too cautious when making their multimillion-dollar dream home available to the public.

"There are security systems inside a home that scam artists could get visual access to," said Kolleen Kelley, president of the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors. "You don't want to make it easy for people to walk in and set up a theft plan."

Coletti guesses some people may be watching too many elaborate heist films. (Does the Vegas-set "Ocean's Eleven" come to mind?)

"Home security systems these days are too sophisticated for someone to merely walk through and scope them all out," he said. "There are too many cameras. You couldn't possibly know where they all are."

In the last 12 months, Coletti has shown the home to half a dozen carefully screened potential buyers, sometimes taking hours to show buyers every rolling wall of glass and exotic stone. He knows that buyers at this level are not easily wowed. "Many have knowledge of the nicer features in homes and so they expect to see them," he said.

And so Coletti waits for the buyer of his dreams. So far there have been no takers.


http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-vegas-mansion-20120513,0,7251628.storyhttp://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-vegas-mansion-20120513,0,7251628.story
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« Reply #35 on: May 15, 2012, 04:02:39 pm »

Kelly Thomas: D.A. charges two officers with murder, manslaughter

Two Fullerton police officers have been criminally charged in the violent confrontation that left a homeless man dead, Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas announced Wednesday.

Officer Manuel Ramos has been charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in connection with the beating of 37-year-old Kelly Thomas, a homeless schizophrenic man. Officer Jay Cicinelli has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force.

Document: Charges against police

Rackauckas said the department reviewed 151 witness statements, videos of the beating, medical reports and police statements.

The district attorney's office had been awaiting the coroner's determination on the cause of death before deciding whether to file charges.

Photos: Kelly Thomas death

Officers approached Kelly Thomas on July 5 at the bus depot in downtown Fullerton while responding to a report of someone trying to break into cars. According to witness accounts, Thomas ran when officers attempted to search his bag. Exactly what happened next is unclear, but witnesses said they saw multiple officers hitting Kelly and shooting him with a Taser while he was on the ground.

Officials from the district attorney's office have said they were awaiting toxicology and other test results from the coroner before making a decision on the case. That report was handed over to the district attorney's office Tuesday, but the findings were not made public.

Thomas, a 37-year-old homeless man with schizophrenia, was a regular presence in downtown Fullerton. He died five days after the confrontation, after being removed from life support.

Earlier this month, an attorney representing the Thomas family released hospital records that showed Thomas had tested negative for drugs and alcohol and that the immediate cause of death was "brain death" due to "head trauma" from the incident.

The hospital records released showed that he suffered brain injuries, a shattered nose, a smashed cheekbone, broken ribs and severe internal bleeding. Thomas also had been shocked with a stun gun "multiple" times, including in the left chest near the heart, the records showed.

Thomas' father, Ron, has been pushing the district attorney's office to file charges against the officers, and the case has sparked a furious reaction, including weekly protests outside the police station and a recall campaign against three City Council members.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2011/09/da-announces-kelly-thomas-murder-charges.html

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2011/09/da-announces-kelly-thomas-murder-charges.html









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« Reply #36 on: May 16, 2012, 04:25:59 pm »


From the Los Angeles Times....

An electrifying freight solution on the 710? Siemens working on it!

By SUSAN CARPENTER | 4:12PM - Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Trucks travel along a test track in Germany, where Siemens is working on its eHighway concept, which runs diesel hybrid trucks on overhead electric wires. This system has been proposed to cut pollution on Interstate 710 in L.A. — Photo: Siemens Corporation.
Trucks travel along a test track in Germany, where Siemens is working on its eHighway concept,
which runs diesel hybrid trucks on overhead electric wires. This system has been proposed
to cut pollution on Interstate 710 in L.A. — Photo: Siemens Corporation.


LOS ANGELES may be one of the first global cities to adopt a new electric freight trucking system, unveiled by electrical engineering giant Siemens Corporation last week at the 26th Electric Vehicle Symposium, or EVS26.

The new technology, called eHighway, is a highway electrification system that uses overhead electrical wires to transmit energy to freight trucks in select vehicle lanes, similar to modern-day streetcars.

“Most people think about cars when they think of vehicle emissions, but the reality is it’s freight trucks,” said Daryl Dulaney, chief executive of North American infrastructure and cities sector for Siemens.

Freight transportation on U.S. roads is expected to double by 2050, according to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. But long before then, by 2030, the carbon dioxide emissions caused by freight transport are forecast to increase 30%.

Siemens created the technology to address the increased carbon footprint of trucking, and Los Angeles may be the first city to see this technology in action. The company is working to implement a pilot project along Interstate 710, moving freight from the ports of Long Beach and L.A. to inland destinations.

More than 40% of freight that arrives in the U.S. via shipping containers comes through the ports of Long Beach and L.A. That freight then has to be trucked to rail stations and other points of distribution.

More than 10,000 trucks serve these two ports, according to a 2011 analysis conducted by the Port of L.A. The movement of goods through Southern California’s ports affects almost 17 million people and causes billions of dollars in health-related costs annually, according to a 2011 report from the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

The report cites that levels in port areas are far higher than in other communities due to the activity of trains, trucks, ships and heavy equipment. For California to meet federal air quality standards, the AQMD has said the region will need to accelerate its transition to zero- and near-zero-emission trucks and cars.

“The ports have made tremendous improvements, but goods-movement-related air pollution remains our largest source of air pollution in Southern California,” said Barry Wallerstein, AQMD executive officer. “We’re hopeful that we will get [the eHighway] off the ground in the next 12 months,” said Wallerstein, who is working to secure grants from the U.S. Department of Energy to build it.

Siemens’ eHighway is one several technologies the AQMD is investigating. It’s currently running pilots of zero-emission electric and fuel cell trucks at the Port of L.A. and envisions marrying the eHighway to near-zero-emissions technologies to help meet federal clean air standards.

The eHighway’s so-called catenary system uses diesel hybrid trucks outfitted with software that senses when an overhead electrical line is available and automatically connects or disconnects as needed. When the trucks’ rooftop connectors are attached to the electrical lines, the trucks run entirely on electricity. When the connectors are lowered, they run on a hybrid electric propulsion system similar to the Toyota Prius. In hybrid mode, the trucks save 30% on diesel fuel.

In addition to reducing emissions, the trucks also reduce noise pollution. But there is a downside: Siemens estimates the system will cost between $5 million and $7 million per mile to build.

“The purpose of this demonstration project is to accelerate zero-emission cargo transport technologies that will reduce harmful diesel emissions, petroleum consumption and greenhouse gases,” said Edward Kjaer, director of Southern California Edison's Plug In Electric Vehicle Readiness Program. “Purchasing electricity and energy produced locally in place of diesel can insulate the region's economy from oil price shocks due to instability in foreign countries and depleting resources. Utilizing electricity produces greater energy price certainty for businesses, and in turn, consumers of the goods being moved.”

The eHighway concept has been getting a test run on an old air strip near Berlin for the past year. The L.A.-area eHighway is likely to be its first real-world application.

“It’s really about creating a more sustainable environment,” said Dulaney, who is in talks with the AQMD and Southern California Edison. “Already more and more consumers are driving electric and hybrid vehicles. If we can get the commercial freight industry to come on board, we’ll decrease emissions dramatically and improve sustainability.”


http://www.latimes.com/news/local/environment/la-me-gs-an-electrifying-freight-solution-from-siemens-20120515,0,6894089.story
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« Reply #37 on: May 21, 2012, 06:54:20 pm »


NATO summit in Chicago

      (Chicago Tribune news stories)



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« Reply #38 on: May 22, 2012, 03:32:58 pm »


Chicago Cops on bicycles, guarding the Mayor's residence....





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« Reply #39 on: May 22, 2012, 03:33:11 pm »


Some photograph galleries from the Chicago Tribune showing the Chicago NATO summit protests....


NATO summit protest photos: Thursday, May 17

NATO summit protest photos: Friday, May 18

NATO summit protest photos: Saturday, May 19

NATO summit protest photos: Sunday, May 20

NATO summit protest photos: Monday, May 21
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« Reply #40 on: May 23, 2012, 02:36:09 am »


From the Los Angeles Times....

75th birthday celebration for the Golden Gate Bridge

For starters, the famous orange-painted span finally has a visitors center. Then
there's a gala in San Francisco next weekend with exhibits, films and more.


By JAY JONES | 11:58AM - Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Golden Gate Bridge greets the dawn in San Francisco. The famed span is getting a visitors center. — Photo: Los Angeles Times/May 16, 2012.
The Golden Gate Bridge greets the dawn in San Francisco. The famed span is getting a visitors center.
 — Photo: Los Angeles Times/May 16, 2012.


AS ITS 75th birthday fast approaches, the Golden Gate Bridge is getting a little birthday present. Even though about 40 million vehicles cross it each year and visitors come in droves daily to admire and photograph it, the spectacular span has never had a visitor center. That is, until this month.

"The bridge experience up to this point has just really been self-guided and a photo opportunity," said David Shaw, vice president of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. "Now there's this bridge pavilion, which is a really nice welcome center. You enter the building and are greeted by a National Park Service ranger who can answer your questions and help you orient your visit. There are a number of interpretive panels that tell the bridge story and some actual artifacts."

Visitors will also find a new café and a gift shop where good-quality merchandise has replaced the former kitsch.

Even on the dreariest of San Francisco days, visitors can get their pictures taken in front of a bridge basking in warm sunshine, thanks to technology.


San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge.

"A lot of people come to the bridge and their first question is, ‘Where's the bridge?’ because it disappears in the fog almost every other day," Shaw said. "The … photo program is a fun aspect if you come on a day when the bridge pulls its disappearing act."

Just-begun tours, offered daily, share the bridge's history and interpret what makes it so iconic.

"It's largely because of its Art Deco styling and its world-famous international orange color," said Mary Currie, public affairs director for the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, the agency that operates the bridge. "That makes it distinct and unique. It stands out with its grace and beauty in a way that no other bridge here in the Bay Area or, in my opinion, around the world stands out."

The Golden Gate, only a few months younger than the Bay Bridge, its cousin to the east, opened to pedestrians on May 27, 1937, and to vehicles one day later. To mark the 75th birthday, San Francisco is throwing a summer-long party, but the big celebration is May 27 and May 28 (Memorial Day).


MILITARY BIPLANES fly between spans of the Golden Gate Bridge during opening day gala in 1937. — Photo: Associated Press.
MILITARY BIPLANES fly between spans of the Golden
Gate Bridge during opening day gala in 1937.
 — Photo: Associated Press.


Next weekend's gala will stretch from Fort Point, which sits under the bridge, along the waterfront through Fisherman's Wharf and onto Pier 39.

"One of the main features is going to be the history tent out on Crissy Field," Shaw said. "That's an 80-foot-by-100-foot, high-topped tent full of graphics that tell the history of the Golden Gate Bridge, and artifacts and memorabilia from the Bridge District's collection.

"There's also at Fort Point a wonderful exhibit called ‘International Orange: The Bridge Reimagined’. That is an exhibit by a number of artists who are reinterpreting the bridge."

One of the more moving exhibits — "Whose Shoes?" — will remember the more than 1,500 people who have died jumping off the bridge. The display is sponsored by the Bridge Rail Foundation, a group whose goal is to stop suicides on the span.

A film series co-hosted by San Francisco's Walt Disney Family Museum will showcase Hollywood's fascination with the bridge. A summer camp — "Archi-techies" — will let children discover how the bridge was built to withstand earthquakes and tsunamis. And the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art will serve bridge-themed desserts.

"In a way, I wish I could go back and visit that era," Currie said of the Great Depression, during which San Francisco-area residents approved the risky proposal to build the bridge.

"They voted to back the construction bonds that were eventually floated by Bank of America," she said. "They were voting to risk that toll dollars would pay back those construction bonds. So they were putting up their homes, their vineyards [and] their businesses on the risk that the bridge would bring something. It was a symbol of hope and ingenuity and a vision for the future."


http://www.latimes.com/travel/la-tr-goldengate-20120515,0,440176.story
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« Reply #41 on: August 19, 2012, 03:57:44 pm »


From the Los Angeles Times....

Delayed revenge in a South Dakota town

An elderly man confesses to murdering a popular schoolmate more
than five decades after a locker room prank. The story of obsession
 — or mental illness — rattles a ‘Norman Rockwell town’.


By JOHN M. GLIONNA | 7:23PM - Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Carl V. Ericsson, 73, is escorted into court after a 72-year-old former schoolmate was shot to death on his doorstep in Madison, South Dakota. — Photo: Elisha Page/Argus Leader/August 14, 2012.
Carl V. Ericsson, 73, is escorted into court after a 72-year-old former schoolmate was shot to death
on his doorstep in Madison, South Dakota. — Photo: Elisha Page/Argus Leader/August 14, 2012.


Reporting from Madison, South Dakota.

THE MAN standing at Norman Johnson's door that cold January evening was a stranger who might have seemed vaguely familiar.

Johnson, a retired high school instructor who taught English and coached tennis and football for 35 years in this unassuming town, probably didn't even have his door locked when he came to greet the bearded, gray-haired visitor. The man bluntly asked him, "Are you Norm Johnson?"

When the 72-year-old Johnson didn't answer quickly enough, the man asked again. When Johnson finally said yes, the intruder shot him twice in the face, leaving him to die on the doorstep of his tidy brown-clapboard home.

In Madison, where many of the 6,500 residents have known each other since childhood, people don't die this way, especially well-respected people like Norm Johnson. Most police officers who swarmed the scene had once sat in the classroom of the strict but fair instructor they still politely called "Mr. Johnson."

Following a tip, police the next day arrested 73-year-old Carl V. Ericsson, who for years had been treated for anxiety and depression. Charged with first-degree murder, Ericsson told investigators a story of obsession that would rattle this Midwestern farm town, where the last murder conviction came in 1917 and the lone police detective badgered locals not to leave the keys in their trucks when they ran about town doing errands.

Ericsson told them he had come to avenge a long-ago locker room prank: In high school, someone put an athletic supporter over his head for laughs. Nobody's really sure whether Johnson was the culprit or whether he'd just laughed the loudest or even if it happened at all.

Back then, Ericsson and Johnson were a study in contrasts. Johnson was the star running back, a handsome boy who started every game and dated a cheerleader. He married her the year of his graduation, in 1958.

One grade ahead, Ericsson was the squad's student manager — a job relegated to non-athletes who assisted coaches and ran errands. He was a teen who existed mainly on the sidelines.

"Norm was a small spark plug of a kid, but real athletic. He wasn't cocky, but he was popular. He let his exploits on the playing field provide his leadership," said Buzz Rumrill, a former team lineman who knew both boys. "It's just hard to remember Carl. He wasn't popular, but he wasn't shunned either. I think he really wanted to be an athlete, but he wasn't. He was the team manager. He was a gofer."

For more than 50 years after high school, Johnson and Ericsson led separate lives — apparently never speaking — until just after 7:30 p.m. on January 31.

That night, the high school basketball team was playing a home game, leaving the streets virtually empty. What happened on that doorstep remains vague, pieced together by statements Ericsson made to police.

What is known is that a man with no criminal record parked his brown Ford Taurus outside Johnson's house and walked to the door with a Glock handgun, carrying 54 rounds of ammunition in three full magazines.

Now two families are left to cope with the aftermath. Ericsson's brother Dick, a popular lawyer and town councilman, lives with knowing his emotionally fraught older brother confessed to shooting a longtime neighbor and colleague. Dick Ericsson had served on the local hospital board with Johnson.

For Johnson's widow and two grown daughters, Ericsson's stated motive only added to their heartbreak. The National Enquirer published a story on the killing, emphasizing the alleged jock strap incident, and the slaying was highlighted on a nationally televised talk show segment on bullying.

But many here wondered: Did the taunting really happen, or was it the creation of a troubled mind? And if the humiliation took place, did Ericsson dwell upon it for decades or did it suddenly pop into his head during a depression-induced flashback?

"People are putting so much credence into the words of a mentally ill man — and so my father has become a bully in the eyes of the nation," said Beth Ribstein, Johnson's youngest daughter. "It's hurtful; it angers me. And conveniently, Dad isn't here to defend himself."

With Johnson's death, people here say society's mayhem has finally invaded their town, a place so quaint that they only needed to give the last four digits of their phone numbers until a second calling prefix was introduced recently.

"This really is a Norman Rockwell town. You half expect to see kids walking down the street with fishing poles on their shoulders," said Jon M. Hunter, publisher of the hometown Madison Daily Leader, who had Johnson as an English teacher and tennis coach.


IN AN agreement with prosecutors, Ericsson pleaded guilty to second-degree murder under circumstances of mental illness, which would send him to prison for life.

But first he had to face the family of his victim.

Ericsson stepped into the courtroom for his June sentencing hearing wearing a black-and-white-striped jail uniform. He sat at the defendant's table, using a hearing device to monitor the proceedings. When he spoke, his voice was feeble, nearly inaudible.

What the 30 people in the Lake County Courthouse heard that morning was the story of two men whose lives took vastly different paths:

Johnson never left Madison and remained active even in retirement. Known as "Stormin' Norman," he was a husky man with thick, silverish hair.

Everybody in town knew him: Either they'd had him as a teacher or came to know him as an adult.

After retirement, he worked part time as a custodian and playground supervisor, a proofreader at the local paper, and finally at the hardware store. He served on civic boards and studied piano. He especially liked playing the classical songs he'd loved as a child.

Former students sought him out. Some, now grandfathers and grandmothers, would approach him at the hardware store, calling him Mr. Johnson, just like always. He would shake his head and harrumph, saying, "Just call me Norm." One carpenter recalled how Johnson regularly looked in on him for months after learning the man had a drinking problem.

Ericsson, the son of a successful lawyer and a librarian, was a loner. After high school, he left for Wyoming, where he worked for decades as a federal government insurance officer.

After retirement, he moved to Watertown, South Dakota, about an hour north of Madison, with his wife of 44 years. He doted on Shep, his German shepherd, and two aging horses he kept at a nearby stable.

Neighbors, though, described him as a peculiar man who would snow-blow their driveways in winter but flip off people who displeased him. He'd often complain about nearby children making too much noise. Then, the next day, he'd play the role of good neighbor, offering to help jump-start a dead car battery.

"Sometimes, he got overly friendly and it creeped my wife out. I told her, ‘He's just a harmless old man. There's nothing to worry about’," neighbor Jason Crow recalled. "When his horses died, he blamed the vets. He said, ‘I ought to take my gun out and go shoot those sons of bitches’. He was great with animals; he just wasn't that good with people."

Authorities say they discovered he had kept a cache of loaded weapons inside his tiny one-story home.

At the time of the murder, a psychiatrist told authorities that Ericsson suffered from "severe and recurrent depression that is, for the most part, treatment resistant." In recent years he had threatened to kill his brother Dick, and after Johnson's death told his wife, Deanna, that he planned to take his own life in prison, according to court records.

At his sentencing, Ericsson told the judge he killed Johnson because of "something that happened over 50 years ago.... It was apparently in my subconscious."

But Beth Ribstein and her family weren't buying the story of any tit-for-tat grudge: On the night he killed her father, witnesses said, Ericsson was seen prowling around the houses of his brother Dick and another former teacher — but both men were at the basketball game. Ericsson, authorities now say, may have been planning a much more serious rampage.

Ribstein and her older sister, Terri Wiblemo, took the witness stand to confront Ericsson. Ribstein, a substitute teacher, said she believed her father's killer was jealous of successful people — old classmates, even his own brother.

"Your life has been filled with anger, jealousy and the need for revenge," she told him at the sentencing hearing. "I truly pity your wife and your family because you've been such a coward, but I can't blame you for being jealous of Dad. In high school he was popular. He was athletic. He dated Mom. They had 52 wonderful years together and had two daughters that adored him, four grandchildren that worshiped their grandpa."

When it was his time to comment, Ericsson told the court: "I just wish I could turn the calendar back."


ON A frigid day in February, 600 people showed up at Johnson's funeral. His colleagues at Jones Ace Hardware, many of them teenagers, wore their red work aprons. They gave the family a keepsake: Norm's old apron, complete with his name tag, tape measure in one pocket, working man's hand cream in the other.

"Norm was a mentor to so many people," store manager Luella Poppen said recently. "If he had known about Carl Ericsson's demons, he would have been the first to reach out to help him. That's what kind of man he was."

Most folks here have grown tired of the scrutiny and heartache the killing brought and want to be known for something else again.

The town has reached out to Johnson's widow, Barbara. One man offered to take care of her lawn. Another dropped by with a strawberry cake; he'd had Norm as a teacher and recalled him saying how much his wife loved strawberries.

Meanwhile, within days of the shooting, Johnson's family invited Dick Ericsson to dinner. "Dick is going through a terrible time," Ribstein said. "My mother was there. We wanted him to know we never had any hard feelings, that we didn't hold a grudge. He needed to see that we were still friends."

That night, they all talked about everything but the murder.


http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-south-dakota-murder-20120815,0,5790228,full.story
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« Reply #42 on: September 05, 2012, 05:07:04 pm »


From the Los Angeles Times....

Jerry Brown and Chris Christie engage in cross-country trash talk

By DAVID HORSEY | 5:00AM - Tuesday, September 04, 2012



A BLOSSOMING FEUD between California Governor Jerry Brown and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie could bring a little fun back into politics.

The spat began on the first day of the Republican National Convention in Tampa during Christie’s visit to the California delegation. Christie, who later in the week would underwhelm as the convention’s keynote speaker, pointed out to the delegates he was a mere 14 years old when Brown won the Democratic primary in New Jersey way back in 1980. The trash-talking governor of the Garden State called Brown “an old retread” and implied Brown was chicken for sending his current tax hike proposal to the voters instead of pushing it through the legislature and taking the heat.

In Los Angeles last Thursday, Brown fired back at Christie during a speech at an organized labor gathering. The veteran Democrat said age may have left him with a lot less hair, but the years had provided plenty of experience and knowledge that Christie may lack.

“Because when you were 14,” Brown said to his new rival, “I was passing the farm labor bill. I was passing worker protections in California."

Brown then challenged the famously rotund New Jersey chief executive to a three-mile run, a push-up contest and a chin-up contest. With the negative implication about Christie’s excessive weight abundantly clear, Brown said he would take any bet on the challenge, adding, “I have no doubt of the outcome.”

It would be great to see this cross-country smack down go on for a few more rounds. Christie should take Brown’s fitness challenge on the condition that Brown agree to a rematch on more favorable turf — say a fritter eating contest at a Trenton donut shop. Brown would easily whip Christie in a foot race and managing even one pull-up seems an unlikely feat for the biggest Republican since William Howard Taft, but Christie clearly has the edge when it comes to consumption of sugar-basted, deep-fried dough.

It’s all about training.


http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/la-na-tt-brown-christie-20120904,0,5085391.story
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« Reply #43 on: October 10, 2012, 04:30:05 pm »


From the Los Angeles Times....

DNA evidence exonerates 300th prisoner nationwide

A Louisiana man is released from death row after his murder conviction
is overturned. He said he was coerced into giving a false confession.


By HOLLY HENNESSY-FISKE | Monday, October 01, 2012

Former death row inmate Damon Thibodeaux, center, gets a visit from two fellow ex-prisoners who were also exonerated of their crimes: Derrick James and Ricky Johnson. At left is attorney Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project. — Photo: Michael Democker/Times-Picayune/September 28, 2012.
Former death row inmate Damon Thibodeaux, center, gets a visit from two fellow ex-prisoners who were
also exonerated of their crimes: Derrick James and Ricky Johnson. At left is attorney Barry Scheck of
the Innocence Project. — Photo: Michael Democker/Times-Picayune/September 28, 2012.


A LOUISIANA MAN has been released from death row, becoming the 300th prisoner nationwide to be freed after DNA evidence showed he was innocent.

Of those 300 prisoners, 18 had been on death row, according to lawyers from the New York-based Innocence Project.

"It feels good. I'm still processing it," said Damon Thibodeaux, 38, when reached by phone in New Orleans.

A Jefferson Parish judge overturned his murder conviction Friday and ordered Thibodeaux released after 16 years in prison, 15 on death row. The decision was one of several recent exonerations across the country.

Last Monday, John Edward Smith was released from a Los Angeles jail nearly two decades after he was wrongfully imprisoned in connection with a gang-related shooting. In August, Chicago prosecutors moved to dismiss murder charges against Alprentiss Nash 17 years after he was convicted of a murder that recent DNA tests indicated he didn't commit. Earlier that month in Texas, David Lee Wiggins was freed after DNA tests cleared him of a rape for which he had served 24 years.

Thibodeaux, a deckhand, was convicted in 1997 and sentenced to death after he confessed to the July 19, 1996, rape and murder of his 14-year-old step-cousin, Crystal Champagne, in Westwego, a dozen miles southwest of New Orleans.

The girl was last seen alive by her family when she left their Westwego apartment to go to a nearby Winn-Dixie grocery store. When she failed to return, her parents alerted police and a search ensued.

Her body was discovered the next evening under a bridge, her pants pulled down, a wire ligature around her neck; she appeared to have been strangled. That night, detectives began interrogating potential witnesses, including Thibodeaux.

After a lengthy interrogation, Thibodeaux confessed to raping and murdering Crystal, a confession that became the primary basis for his conviction in October 1997.

He unsuccessfully appealed his conviction in 1999, arguing that he was coerced into giving a false, unrecorded confession after being interrogated for nine hours by Jefferson Parish sheriff's investigators. He also said that there was insufficient evidence to convict him and that he did not receive a fair trial.

"This is a tragic illustration of why law enforcement must record the entire interrogation of any witness or potential suspect in any investigation involving a serious crime," said one of Thibodeaux's attorneys, Steve Kaplan of the Minneapolis firm Fredrikson & Byron.

In 2007, Thibodeaux's legal team persuaded Jefferson Parish Dist. Atty. Paul Connick to reinvestigate the case, sharing half the cost, which ran into hundreds of thousands of dollars. DNA testing showed that Thibodeaux was not the killer and that Crystal had not been raped.

"District attorneys now recognize that the system doesn't always get it right and many, like Dist. Atty. Connick and his team, are committed to getting to the truth," said Barry Scheck, co-director of the Innocence Project, which also represented Thibodeaux. The case highlights the importance of California's Proposition 34, which would repeal the death penalty, on the November ballot, Scheck added.

Thibodeaux, who said he felt "great sympathy for the Champagne family" and hoped Crystal's killer "is found and tried," said he was grateful the district attorney was willing to reexamine his case.

"A lot of prosecutors, when they see a case like mine, they just turn away from it and say, ‘We tried it in court, that's it’," he said.

Louisiana pays those wrongfully convicted $25,000 for each year they were held in error for up to a decade.

Thibodeaux plans to live in Minnesota, which he heard had a good reintegration program for former inmates.

After he walked out of prison, Thibodeaux said, he took the first step toward that new life, inhaling a deep breath of "free air."

"It's probably the best breath I've ever had," he said.


http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-dna-evidence-20121001,0,2977942.story
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« Reply #44 on: October 10, 2012, 05:17:51 pm »


From the Los Angeles Times....

Arnold Schwarzenegger discusses affair in interview

In a ‘60 Minutes’ interview, former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger says
he realized he was the father of his housekeeper's child when the boy was 7 or 8.


By ANTHONY YORK | Monday, October 01, 2012

Shriver and Schwarzenegger outside St. Francis Xavier Church in Hyannis, Massachusetts, after their wedding on April 26, 1986. — Photo: Associated Press.
Shriver and Schwarzenegger outside St. Francis Xavier Church in Hyannis, Massachusetts,
after their wedding on April 26, 1986. — Photo: Associated Press.


PHOTOGRAPH GALLERY: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver

SACRAMENTO — Arnold Schwarzenegger said he realized he was the father of his housekeeper's child when the boy reached age 7 or 8 and the resemblance became apparent.

Although he never discussed the matter with the boy's mother, who kept the child's paternity secret while continuing to work in the home of Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver, he began secretly sending the woman extra money to help care for his son.

Those details, revealed during an interview with CBS News' Lesley Stahl on "60 Minutes" on Sunday, were the former governor's first public comments on the affair that grabbed headlines and destroyed his marriage last year. They came a day before the release of Schwarzenegger's new memoir, which is expected to delve into details of his relationship with Mildred Baena and their son, Joseph.

Schwarzenegger's decision to handle the paternity issue without telling those closest to him about it is characteristic of the former bodybuilding champion, movie star and politician, who said a certain amount of denial and secrecy has been a key to his success.

"That's the way I handle things, and it always has worked," Schwarzenegger said, according to a transcript provided by CBS before the interview aired on the West Coast. "It's not the best thing for people around me.... Some information I just keep to myself."

Shriver confronted Schwarzenegger about the child in a counseling session the day after he left office, in January 2011. She filed for divorce weeks later.

Schwarzenegger declined to discuss his current relationship with the boy but said he continues to give financial support to him and his mother.

While the affair with Baena remained private until after Schwarzenegger left office, allegations of lewd behavior and infidelity rocked Schwarzenegger's campaign for governor just days before he was elected in the historic recall of Democratic Governor Gray Davis.

Schwarzenegger told Stahl that campaign almost never happened. When he told Shriver, niece of former President John F. Kennedy, of his intention to run just four days before making the surprise announcement on NBC's "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno," Schwarzenegger said, "she started shaking, and she had tears in her eyes.

"I realized that I was stepping into something that was much deeper than just me running and her being a supportive wife," he said.

Shriver's mother, the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver, intervened, telling her daughter that if she got in the way of Schwarzenegger's political ambitions, he would never forgive her.

Shriver wasn't the only one down on her husband's gubernatorial ambitions, according to outtakes from the interview on the "60 Minutes" website. Schwarzenegger said he met with Karl Rove in the White House in 2003, and Rove was "dismissive" of the recall and the Hollywood star's chances of winning. Rove arranged a quick meeting for Schwarzenegger with Condoleezza Rice, whom Rove said was the White House's pick for California governor in 2006, the year Schwarzenegger was re-elected.

Also in the outtakes, Schwarzenegger says he foolishly wanted to rewrite his famous "Terminator" line, "I'll be back," to "I will be back." He found the contraction "feminine." He fought "tooth and nail" over it with director James Cameron, but Cameron resisted.

Sunday's interview was short on policy but touched briefly on Schwarzenegger's unsuccessful push to expand healthcare coverage to millions of uninsured Californians, which he characterized as an improvement on the plan passed by Mitt Romney when Romney was governor of Massachusetts.

With his movie career now back in full swing, an academic think tank launched in his name recently at USC and a nationwide book tour in the offing, Schwarzenegger is focusing on his future. But he said the affair with Baena, and the pain it caused his family, continues to be his greatest regret.

"That," he said, "is something that I will always look back and say, ‘How could you have done that?’"


CLICK HERE to view the CBS ‘60 Minutes’ interview with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-schwarzenegger-60-minutes-20121001,0,1997169.story
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« Reply #45 on: October 10, 2012, 05:18:06 pm »


From the Los Angeles Times....

Arnold Schwarzenegger's narcissistic book is creepy and cruel

By DAVID HORSEY | 5:00AM - Friday, October 05, 2012

Arnold Schwarzenegger's “Total Recall” proves he is a moral girlie man. — Cartoon: David Horsey/Los Angeles Times.
Arnold Schwarzenegger's “Total Recall” proves he is a moral girlie man.
 — Cartoon: David Horsey/Los Angeles Times.


A MAN who built his career on testosterone, who spent years pumping iron and staring at himself in mirrors, who thrived in the egocentric troika of sports, Hollywood and politics is probably not a good candidate for faithful husband. Maria Shriver had to have known that when she married Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Arnold and men like him are supreme narcissists. Sure, they are charming, dynamic, seductive, even magnetic, but the world beyond their own minds and bodies is an abstraction. Other people are moons revolving around their sun. They are emotionally detached. All they really need in life are themselves.

So, it is truly mystifying to the Arnold Schwarzeneggers of the world why a wife would get upset about him having sex with other women. As Arnold said to Maria, it had nothing to do with her; he still thinks she’s hot. It’s only sex, after all — sex and an inconvenient love child.

That’s how Arnold tells the story, anyway, in his new memoir, "Total Recall". And, asked by interviewers if he thinks revealing the details of his philandering and divorce might be painful for his ex-wife and children, he says yes, it is painful. Yet the look on his face suggests that pain is just a bit of collateral damage with no bearing on Arnold’s desire to market his autobiography. The way he sees it, the world needs to hear the epic tale of his life, and that is far more consequential than the feelings of those four children he fathered with Maria.

I first crossed paths with Maria Shriver on her Uncle Teddy’s campaign bus during the New Hampshire presidential primary in 1980. This was six years before she married Arnold. She was a 24-year-old budding TV journalist hanging out in the back of the bus with her younger cousin, Kara Kennedy. I was not much older — a fresh-out-of-college political cartoonist on my first national news assignment. I thought Maria was incredibly cute with her dark hair, angular Kennedy jaw and smiling row of bright teeth, that most ubiquitous family trait. I figured she had an interesting life in store — she was a Kennedy, after all.

During that trip, I visited the bridge at Chappaquiddick where Ted Kennedy had driven a careening car into the dark water and left a drowning young woman behind as he saved himself. Maria knew about that incident. She probably knew about Teddy’s other affairs and the secret sex life of her martyred Uncle John, the prince of Camelot. Infidelity was common behavior among the high-achieving males in the Kennedy clan (though her own father, Sargent Shriver, seems to have had a more true moral compass).

Biographers of John F. Kennedy indicate that he, like Schwarzenegger, saw sex with a series of bimbos as little more than physical release that had no significant bearing on his love for his wife, Jacqueline. Having grown up in that Kennedy world, perhaps Maria never expected her husband to be perfectly faithful. But she probably hoped for discretion, at least.

For men like Arnold who see themselves as bold men of action destined for great things, sex is a mere perk. While a wife is a trophy (especially one with the Kennedy pedigree), all other women are just incidental conquests along the path to mastery of bigger realms — Hollywood stardom, political power or a Mr. Universe competition. But even the most cavalier rogue can at least get his timing right if he cares at all about the people nearest and dearest to him.

Schwarzenegger’s book is an example of crass and callous self-promotion. Maybe in a few years it would have been OK to publish a tell-all tome, but this close to the moment of pain he inflicted on his family, it is just plain creepy and cruel.

Not that Arnold would see it that way; he is too enthralled by the face in the mirror and the siren call of his personal destiny.


http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/la-na-tt-schwarzenegger-book-20121004,0,2782270.story
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« Reply #46 on: November 23, 2012, 06:56:31 pm »


From the Los Angeles Times....

The greedy hordes of Black Friday are now plundering Thanksgiving

By DAVID HORSEY | 5:00AM - Thursday, November 22, 2012

Since David Horsey drew this Black Friday cartoon in 2009, many retailers have pushed store openings into Thanksgiving Day. — Cartoon: David Horsey/Los Angeles Times.
Since David Horsey drew this Black Friday cartoon in 2009, many retailers have pushed store openings into Thanksgiving Day.
 — Cartoon: David Horsey/Los Angeles Times.


ADMITTEDLY, I am a guy who generally dreads the thought of plodding through a shopping mall on any day of the year, but to me the encroachment of Black Friday into Thanksgiving evening seems not only insane but also disturbingly unpatriotic.

It was bad enough when it became the norm for people to show up in the middle of the night in order to be near the front of the line when store doors swung open early on the morn after Thanksgiving. Every time I heard about the herd of shoppers being culled as someone got trampled or sent to the hospital after a fight over a Tickle Me Elmo, I felt justified in my smugness and disdain of this retail frenzy. If that is how the rabble wanted to spend their time and money, so be it. The manic rush to save a hundred bucks on a 50-inch flat-screen TV or finish Christmas shopping by 9 a.m. on Black Friday could go on without me.

Over the years, though, retailers have pushed the starting time for this mad dash earlier and earlier until now it is bumping up against the slicing of the pumpkin pie at the Thanksgiving dinner table. This does not seem right.

I pity the poor retail workers who have to leave home and hearth and turkey dinner on the most venerable national holiday of the year. Instead of giving thanks for the opportunity to be confronted by a greedy horde of bargain hunters, I suspect most of those workers are cursing the store owners who decided to ruin the day with their own lust for a dollar. I think it is safe to assume the guys who own Target or Best Buy or the other big retailers will not be manning the cash registers. No, they will be sharing a leisurely Thanksgiving repast with their heirs in the peace and safety of their gated communities.

In 2013, it will be exactly 150 years since Abraham Lincoln set aside the fourth Thursday in November as a national day of "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens." Obviously, traditions shift over time, but let us hope that by next year those who put making money and spending money above all other values will not have totally desecrated what was once an all-American day like no other.

For anyone who feels as disgusted as I am with the plundering of Thanksgiving, go to Change.org and sign the petition urging Target to stop being the Grinch who stole Thanksgiving from employees. Maybe if one retailer is shamed into doing business more thoughtfully, others can be, as well.


http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/la-na-tt-black-friday-20121121,0,5173887.story
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« Reply #47 on: November 24, 2012, 01:46:24 pm »

Black Friday? But it wasn't the 13th of the month Huh

Black Friday is the day following Thanksgiving Day in the United States, traditionally the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. On this day, most major retailers open extremely early and offer promotional sales to kick off the holiday shopping season, similar to Boxing Day sales in many Commonwealth Nations. Black Friday is not an official holiday, but many non-retail employers also observe this day as a holiday along with Thanksgiving, giving their employees the day off, thereby increasing the number of potential shoppers. It has routinely been the busiest shopping day of the year since 2005,[1] although news reports, which at that time were inaccurate,[2] have described it as the busiest shopping day of the year for a much longer period of time.[3]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Friday_(shopping)

Ohhh...the penny drops
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« Reply #48 on: November 24, 2012, 05:52:43 pm »


Yep......'merkins, eh? 
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« Reply #49 on: December 06, 2012, 05:46:34 pm »

US 'ready in days to take Syria'
BY: MICHAEL EVANS AND DEBORAH HAYNES From: The Times December 06, 2012 12:00AM


WASHINGTON is ready to launch military action in Syria "within days" if Bashar al-Assad resorts to mobilising chemical weapons to repel rebel forces trying to seize Damascus, US officials say.

US-led military intervention, which would also involve allies, is not imminent, but the Pentagon and Central Command, which has authority for US operations in the Middle East, were ready to respond if necessary, the officials said yesterday.

Take him out Tongue
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