Showing posts with label Nation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nation. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Community Comes Together For Funeral of Christina Green

Arizona lawmakers moved quickly Tuesday to try to block protesters from the funeral of 9-year-old shooting victim Christina Green, passing an emergency measure prohibiting protests within 300 feet of any funeral services.

In addition to the new law, hundreds of Tucson residents were making contingency plans to try to protect the family of the girl who was slain in Saturday's rampage.

The actions were prompted by the Westboro Baptist Church, a publicity-seeking Kansas congregation known for demonstrating at the funerals of U.S. soldiers, arguing that their deaths are retribution by God for America's acceptance of homosexuality. The church announced it would protest Green's funeral, scheduled for Thursday, because the family is Catholic.

The protest drew instant and unanimous condemnation from Arizonans.

"Protesting or picketing outside the funeral of an innocent victim is despicable," said House Speaker Kirk Adams. "It's time to bring Arizona in line with the many other states that protect the sensitivities of victims against groups that use fear and hate to denigrate the lives of Americans."

Adams sponsored the emergency measure that prohibits people from picketing or protesting within 300 feet of any residence, cemetery, funeral home, church, synagogue or other establishment during or within one hour of a funeral service or burial service.

The House and Senate passed the bill unanimously Tuesday. Gov. Jan Brewer signed the measure Tuesday evening.
The founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, Fred Phelps, has traveled with his daughters and granddaughters throughout the county picketing soldiers' funerals, prompting new state and local laws to keep them away from grieving families. The Supreme Court has agreed to take up a free-speech case related to the funeral protests.

Tucson residents are preparing to line the funeral procession for Green, both to show their support of the family and to block them from seeing the Westboro protest.

"We just want to show the families in Tucson that we're a community that's bound together, through the good and the bad," said Janna Zankich, a 46-year-old dance studio manger.

On Tuesday evening, she planned to gather with dozens of people at Breakout Studios to construct 8- to 10-foot wings that volunteer "angels" would wear along the funeral procession to block the family's view of the protesters.

Residents' grass-roots response to the church's planned protest has spread quickly through social media.

A friend of Zankich's, Christin Gilmer, put up a Facebook page calling for volunteers to help protect the family from picketers from Westboro. Hundreds of volunteers have said they would attend.

Trevor Hill, a University of Arizona junior, is trying to coordinate the myriad groups so they are a calming and peaceful force on Thursday.

"Our goal is to be silent. We don't need to be a distraction — these are funeral processions," he said. "No signs or music, no counter-protests. Do not engage Westboro Baptist. It's just not worth it, and it's equally disrespectful for the family for us to be yelling."

Hill also hopes to show the world a different side of Tucson.

"There have been people claiming Arizona is the center of intolerance, the mecca of bigotry. That is absolutely not true. These are people who live their lives and want to raise families," he said. "It's honestly a very special community."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ted Williams Detained By Police

LOS ANGELES – Ted Williams, the Ohio homeless man whose smooth radio voice made him an internet sensation, had to do some quick talking to Los Angeles police.

Officers were called when Williams and his daughter got into a heated argument Monday night at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel & Spa, Officer Catherine Massey said.

"I don't know how loud they were" but the argument at about 9 p.m. led to a disturbance report, Massey said Tuesday.

"It was minor. Both parties were angry but there were no signs of visible abuse," Massey said. "They were brought in, calmed down, talked to and released."

She said she did not know the nature of the argument.

Williams and his daughter, whom Massey declined to name, were held at the Hollywood police station for less than an hour and they were not arrested, she said.

It was not known whether the two returned to the hotel. "Due to guest privacy laws, we don't share details of our guests or their stays," said Dan Shaughnessy, director of sales and marketing for the Rennaissance.

Williams' manager, Al Battle, declined to comment about or provide details of the incident but said a statement would be issued soon.

"Once we get all the facts, it'll be out there for everybody to have," he said in a brief phone interview with The Associated Press.

Williams was in town to tape an appearance on TV's "Dr. Phil" show.

The two-part episode was taped over the weekend to air Tuesday and Wednesday. On the Wednesday segment, Williams meets with his ex-wife, Patricia, and five of his nine children, according to a statement from the show.

"In this emotional reunion, Williams talks openly with his family about the man he is today, the influences that threaten his sobriety and what his children can expect from him in the future. His children respond in a very raw and candid manner," the statement said.

"Everyone is pulling for Ted, but his 15 minutes are going to be over and then he'll be left to manage a life filled with temptation," host Phil McGraw said. "We're going to try and help him prepare for that because it would be a real tragedy if he did not make the most of this extraordinary second chance."

Williams, 53, trained to be a radio announcer but found his life derailed by drugs and alcohol in the 1990s. He has served time in prison for theft and forgery and has been cited with numerous misdemeanors, including drug abuse.

Williams became famous almost overnight after The Columbus Dispatch newspaper posted a web video of him last week. Viewers were enthralled to hear a deep, honeyed professional voice coming from the shabbily dressed man.

Since then, he has done a TV commercial for Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, appeared on various news shows, recorded voiceover promos for cable news and was offered an announcing job with the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team.

Although he says he has been clean for more than two years, the recovering addict has acknowledged that it has been challenging dealing with sudden fame.

"I wanted a nerve pill yesterday, to be honest with you," he told CBS on Friday.

Virginia Delegate Wants Alternative Currencies For State

The Commonwealth of Virginia would begin minting its own gold and silver coins as an alternative currency to the U.S. dollar under a bill that Virginia Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William) says he will file in coming days.

Marshall will ask the General Assembly to consider the idea when it convenes for its annual legislative session Jan. 12. It is a companion bill to a proposal he has already filed to establish a study committee to examine alternative currencies to that distributed by the Federal Reserve System "in the event of a major breakdown of the Federal Reserve System."

Marshall said his intention is to inject competition into the national economy and force the federal government to change monetary policy he believes is leading to hyperinflation. According to his bill, "many widely recognized experts predict the inevitable destruction of the Federal Reserve System's currency through hyperinflation in the foreseeable future." His critique mirrors that of the Tea Party movement, some of whose members have called for the end of the Federal Reserve system.

"State legislatures have to get a little more creative and savvy to counter the buffoonery that's been plaguing Washington," Marshall said in an interview.

Asked what he might say to people who believe the proposal is, well, a little wacky (after all, the last time Virginia used currency other than the U.S. dollar was during the Civil War), Marshall said he believes the Constitution allows for alternative currencies.

"The only people who would say that are people who don't understand or reject the clear language of the Constitution, of the law and of court decisions," he said. "We want to provide competition and some restraint on the profligates that have been running the Federal Reserve and the people in Congress who don't know the word 'no.' "

Marshall is one of the most conservative and controversial members of the Virginia legislature. He delights in proposing legislation that helps him advance his conservative philosophy and is considering running for the U.S. Senate in 2012.

But Marshall's bills aren't always embraced by the rest of the legislature, even his fellow Republicans. He is also sponsoring legislation this year to bar gays and lesbians from serving in the Virginia National Guard.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Obama Oks Joint Forces Command Closure

Hampton Roads stands to lose at least another 160 jobs as part of Defense Secretary Robert Gates' plan to overhaul defense spending.

The details of Gates' plan, announced Thursday, raised red flags among some area leaders and regional advocates, who argued that Gates didn't offer enough specifics about how the cutbacks would save money or improve national defense.

Gates said he plans to decommission the Navy's Norfolk-based Second Fleet, turning over control of its ships and operations to Fleet Forces Command. Both are headquartered at Norfolk Naval Station. President Barack Obama on Thursday night also approved an earlier plan to shut down the Joint Forces Command in Norfolk and Suffolk.

None of the more than 120 ships would leave Norfolk, Gates said during a Pentagon news conference, but about 160 military positions could be eliminated.

"During the Cold War, this command had distinct and significant operational responsibilities," he said. "Today, its primary responsibility is training and mission preparation."

The Second Fleet was established in 1950 in Norfolk and has participated in several historic military operations, including a 1962 naval blockade during the Cuban missile crisis. It also trained more than half the Navy's ships that were deployed during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1990 and 1991.

Under the new arrangement, the Second Fleet ships would be under the direct command of Adm. John C. Harvey Jr., the four-star head of Fleet Forces Command.

In a memo from the White House, the president said he accepted Gates' plan to shut down JFCOM - a move he announced in August - on a date to be determined by Gates.

Pentagon officials have said they expect that some parts of the command could remain in the region but have not specified how many of JFCOM's 3,760 jobs in the region might remain.

Gates said that officials are "still refining the details but expect that roughly 50 percent of the capabilities under JFCOM will be kept and assigned to other organizations."

The statement doesn't shed light on how many jobs might be lost and what kinds of positions might remain, said Craig Quigley, who heads the taxpayer-funded Hampton Roads Military and Federal Facilities Alliance, which lobbies to protect the region's military assets.

Local members of Congress said they don't have enough information to judge whether the cuts proposed by Gates are defensible.

U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Virginia Beach, whose district includes the Second Fleet and JFCOM headquarters, said Gates' decision about Second Fleet is troubling because he didn't provide any data to justify the change.

U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Chesapeake, was more emphatic, saying he believes Gates' efforts are part of a larger effort by the Obama administration to restrict military spending so that the funds can be spent elsewhere.

"You have no analysis, no documentation," Forbes said. "You simply have the cut, and then you back fill the analysis."

Forbes, who has become chairman of the readiness subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, has said he wants Congress to have a more direct role in setting defense priorities.

"We're going to be demanding audits of the Department of Defense," he said.

Gates also said the Navy will cut costs by reducing land-based staffs for submarines, patrol aircraft, destroyer squadrons and an aircraft carrier strike group.

The Navy was careful to point out that no ships, subs or aircraft will depart Norfolk or any other homeport as a result of the changes.

"We're going to streamline shore-based infrastructure by consolidating," said Lt. Courtney Hillson, a Navy spokeswoman. "But we're not moving any ships or planes - just people."

Gates said the Navy will use the savings to develop a new generation of electronic jammers and unmanned aircraft, and to buy more F/A-18 fighter jets, a new destroyer, a littoral combat ship, an ocean surveillance vessel and fleet oilers.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Some Believe The Rapture To Begin May 21, 2011

All right everybody, empty those pension funds, quit your jobs, and repent, because the end times are so nigh you can mark them on your calendar.

Apparently, the second coming is scheduled for May 21, 2011, according to Harold Camping, the leader of independent Christian ministry Family Radio Worldwide. He’s gotten that message out to Christians around the country—through radio shows, the Internet, and like-minded independent churches—and started a small movement whose members are convinced that they shall know the day and the hour wherein the Son of Man cometh.
Camping, 89, tells the AP that the dedicated can read the Bible like a kind of cosmic calendar. “Beyond the shadow of a doubt, May 21 will be the date of the Rapture and the day of judgment,” he says. He figures the subsequent end of days will occur sometime around October.
The AP talked to a lot of people who agree, including one woman who is organizing an RV caravan across the country to spread the news. "Time is short," she says.

Here's more..........

If there had been time, Marie Exley would have liked to start a family. Instead, the 32-year-old Army veteran has less than six months left, which she'll spend spreading a stark warning: Judgment Day is almost here.

Exley is part of a movement of Christians loosely organized by radio broadcasts and websites, independent of churches and convinced by their reading of the Bible that the end of the world will begin May 21, 2011.

To get the word out, they're using billboards and bus stop benches, traveling caravans of RVs and volunteers passing out pamphlets on street corners. Cities from Bridgeport, Conn., to Little Rock, Ark., now have billboards with the ominous message, and mission groups are traveling through Latin America and Africa to spread the news outside the United States.

"A lot of people might think, 'The end's coming; let's go party,' " said Exley, a veteran of two deployments in Iraq. "But we're commanded by God to warn people. I wish I could just be like everybody else, but it's so much better to know that when the end comes, you'll be safe."

In August, Exley left her home in Colorado Springs, Colo., to work with Oakland, Calif.-based Family Radio Worldwide, the independent Christian ministry whose leader, Harold Camping, has calculated the May 21 date based on his reading of the Bible.

She is organizing RVs carrying the message from city to city, a logistical challenge that her military experience has helped solve.

The vehicles are scheduled to be in five North Carolina cities between now and the second week of January, but Exley will be gone overseas, where she hopes eventually to make it back to Iraq.

"I don't really have plans to come back," she said. "Time is short."

Allison Warden, 29, of Raleigh, has been helping organize a campaign using billboards, postcards and other media in cities across the United States through a website, We Can Know.

Asked about reactions to the message, which is plastered all over her car, she laughs.

"It's definitely against the grain. I know that," she said. "We're hoping people won't take our word for it or Harold Camping's word for it. We're hoping that people will search the Scriptures for themselves."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Ohio Ex-Convict Charged With Murder

An ex-convict who was already charged with kidnapping a 13-year-old girl has been indicted on charges of aggravated murder in the deaths of her mother, her little brother and a family friend, whose dismembered remains were found in a hollow tree.

The victims' bodies were found in central Ohio nearly two months ago after suspect
Matthew Hoffman allegedly told police where to look.

The indictment returned today by a Knox County grand jury charges Hoffman with aggravated murder, burglary, kidnapping, rape, tampering with evidence and abusing a corpse.

A combination of three photos acquired by WBNS-10TV shows murder victims Tina Herrmann, Kody Maynard, and Stephanie Sprang.
Matthew Hoffman is charged with the murders of Tina Hermann, left, her son Kody Maynard, center, and family friend Stephanie Sprang.

If convicted, the 30-year-old unemployed tree trimmer could face life in prison without parole. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty, because of the wishes of the victims' families, The Associated Press reported.

The bodies of Stephanie Sprang, 41, Tina Herrmann, 32, and Herrmann's 11-year-old son, Kody Maynard, were located in a wooded area in mid-November. The remains were stuffed inside garbage bags that had been placed in a hollow tree. The victims had been missing for a week before the bodies were discovered, police said.

The indictment alleges Hoffman murdered the victims during a Nov. 10 burglary at Herrmann's home in Howard, about 60 miles northeast of Columbus.
Hoffman was previously charged with kidnapping after Herrmann's 13-year-old daughter was found in the basement of his Mount Vernon home on Nov. 14. The girl was wounded, tied up and gagged, police said. The indictment alleges she was also raped.

During a Nov. 18 news conference, Knox County Sheriff David Barber said investigators found the victims' bodies based on information received from Hoffman.

Authorities have yet to offer a motive in the case. Barber previously said Hoffman had been watching the family but did not elaborate.

Hoffman, an ex-con who served prison time in Colorado for arson and other charges, is being held in the Knox County jail on $1 million bond, the AP reported.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Swearing In Ceremonies For Rigell On Wednesday

Scott Rigell will become the new second district congressman tomorrow. Rigell will be officially sworn in during ceremonies at Capitol Hill.

The new house majority leader John Bohener has decided to make the swearing in ceremonies low key so as to demonstrate the seriousness of the issues this Congress will face.

After an overall swearing in ceremony, each of the new representatives will be sworn in personally by Boehner. Melody Scalley will be at the ceremony and the following press conference and will be reporting on the activities.

Rigell defeated incumbent Congressman Glenn Nye in the November election, one that saw the Republicans win a 63 seat majority in the House.

The Second District was one of three that changed parties from Democrat to Republican. Two other Democrats, Tom Periello and long time Congressional veteran Rick Boucher also lost their seats.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bill For More EPA Power Dies In Lame Duck-Session

Congress passed over the Chesapeake Clean Water Act during the lame duck session, which was folded into a larger bill called the America's Great Outdoors Act. The bill would have given the Environmental Protection Agency greater power monitor and take steps to reduce the Bay's pollution.

Senate leaders could not gather enough votes to prevent a filibuster on the America's Great Outdoors Act.

The Chesapeake Clean Water Act would have put into law many of the bay cleanup actions already under way by the EPA. However, the bill's co-sponsors Senators Benjamin Cardin and Elijah Cummings, both of Maryland, have said they will reintroduce the bill in the next Congress.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation was a major backer of the bill and lobbied for it.

The region's riverkeepers, however, felt the bill was weakened too much during the Senate committee process.

However, the bill drew strong opposition from farming groups, including the American Farm Bureau Federation. The farm bureau said the Chesapeake Clean Water Act would fundamentally change the way the existing Clean Water Act is enforced.

The bill may have a tougher road to approval the next time around, particularly in the House of Representatives, which is switching to Republican control.

Even with the bill's failure, the Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort is moving ahead. Next week, the EPA will finalize a pollution diet that will limit how much nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment can flow into rivers, streams and the Chesapeake. The goal of the diet is to reduce pollution enough to eventually get the bay off the list of the nation's "impaired waters." States that don't meet their new limits could face federal sanctions.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Malfunctioning Sprinkler System Closes Store

Many people have a difference of opinion when it comes to the state mandated sprinkler law that is scheduled to go into effect in January of 2011. Take a look at the article below. This happened in October of this year to a business. This business in Fairfield, CT. suffered quite a loss simply because of a malfunction. Just something to think about.

The Home Depot may be closed for at least part of this weekend after a sprinkler head malfunctioned in the Kings Highway Cutoff store Friday night and flooded it with water, firefighters said.

"You can swim in here," Fire Chief Richard Felner said, adding that the mega-store would have been better off having a fire.

Felner said the sprinkler head near the front of the store, by the plumbing aisle, was spraying water for around 40 minutes and that merchandise in four aisles was soaked. The water wasn't confined to those aisles, though. Felner said it had spread throughout the store. "It just keeps spreading out. There's nothing to hold it in," he said.

Felner said a cleaning crew was due to come in Friday night to begin mop up operations and he said the store almost certainly would be closed Saturday.

Employees outside the store Friday night turned customers away but said the store should be open Saturday because cleanup crews would be working all night. The store was open when the sprinkler head went off, and the parking lot was wet with water.

Firefighters aren't sure why the sprinkler head malfunctioned. Felner said the head, which is about 40 feet in the air, wasn't near a source of heat, and it may have just been old or rusted. "There's nothing up there that set it off. It could have been a faulty head," he said.

Felner said the head shot water over a 15-foot radius and that the water spread all over the store. He estimated it was about an inch deep across the store by the time firefighters could shut off the head. He estimated damage from the incident at $50,000.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Internet Wiretaps Would Be Made Easier In The US

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration is pushing to make it easier for the government to tap into internet and e-mail communications. But the plan has already drawn condemnation from privacy groups and communications firms may be wary of its costs and scope.

Frustrated by sophisticated and often encrypted phone and e-mail technologies, U.S. officials say that law enforcement needs to improve its ability to eavesdrop on conversations involving terrorism, crimes or other public safety issues.

Critics worry the changes are an unnecessary invasion of privacy and would only make citizens and businesses more vulnerable to identity theft and espionage.

The new regulations that would be sent to Congress next year would affect American and foreign companies that provide communications services inside the U.S. It would require service providers to make the plain text of encrypted conversations — over the phone, computer or e-mail — readily available to law enforcement, according to federal officials and analysts.

The mandate would likely require companies to add backdoors or other changes to the systems that would allow a wiretap to capture an unscrambled version of a conversation.

Those affected by the changes would include online services and networking sites such as Facebook and Skype, as well as phone systems that deliver encrypted e-mail such as BlackBerry.

"The way we communicate has changed dramatically since 1994, but telecommunications law has not kept up. This gap between reality and the law has created a significant national security and public safety problem," said Valerie E. Caproni, the FBI's General Counsel.

She said the changes would not expand law enforcement authority and would involve legally authorized intercepts on calls or e-mails sent by terrorists or other criminals. The changes would allow companies to respond quickly to wiretap requests from local, state and federal authorities.

The New York Times first reported Monday about White House plans to submit the new bill next year.

Law enforcement is already able to monitor regular telephone conversations.

"In the old days, the technology was simple to wiretap," said cybersecurity expert James Lewis, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "As technologies have gotten better and faster and bigger, it's harder and harder for law enforcement to intercept communications."

Lewis said law enforcement officials have long been pushing for the expanded access. He said the technology is available to make the changes and allow authorities to tap into conversations encrypted by communications companies as they move from one person to another.

Communications companies, he said, may have concerns about the costs of modifying their systems or software to allow the intercepts. The government may have to provide some funding aid.

Companies may also balk if the government tries to tell them how to alter their systems.

But Lewis said many companies are already providing similar capabilities to law enforcement in other countries in Europe and the Middle East.

Wiretapping is vital for law enforcement agencies, said Lewis, because "it provides crucial evidence that wins a lot of their convictions. As technology changes, as the Internet changes, they have to keep up or they'll lose an important tool in their arsenal."

Civil rights and privacy groups were quick to condemn the plan, warning that the administration faces an uphill battle.

"This is a shortsighted and ill-conceived power grab by some in the administration," said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center. "The balance has swung radically toward enhanced law enforcement powers. For them to argue that it's still not enough is just unbelievable. It's breathtaking in its hubris."

He said that over the past 15 years — particularly since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks — the standards for warrants have been lowered. And he said law enforcement has many new technologies, ranging from biometric tracking to DNA databases, to enhance its information gathering.

Christopher Calabrese, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said that mandating that all communications software be accessible to the government is a "huge privacy invasion."

"Under the guise of a technical fix, the government looks to be taking one more step toward conducting easy dragnet collection of Americans' most private communications," Calabrese said. "This proposal will create even more security risks by mandating that our communications have a 'backdoor' for government use and will make our online interactions even more vulnerable."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Va. Christian Activist Hopes To Distribute Qurans

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (AP) Florida Pastor Terry Jones canceled his Sept. 11 Quran burning, but what has become of the Islamic holy books since the international controversy has subsided?
The answer rests with the Rev. Patrick Mahoney, a well-known Christian activist from the Fredericksburg area.

Mahoney traveled to Gainesville, Fla., to pray on the grounds of Jones' Dove World Outreach Center in the days before Sept. 11, trying to convince the preacher to cancel the burning.

Facing mounting pressure from politicians and religious leaders, Jones relented.

Mahoney returned to Florida last week and collected some 225 Qurans. He now expects to distribute them to Christian churches and missionary groups as a tool for interfaith dialogue.

"We plan to use them as a physical reminder of how the church is to reach out to our Islamic friends," he said.

Mahoney brought some of them home and had the rest shipped to the Washington, D.C., office of the Christian Defense Coalition, which he leads.

Mahoney, who has prayed with Muslim leaders in Iraq and Morocco, told Jones that Islamic countries wouldn't understand a church acting independently of the government.

"So, to the Islamic world it wasn't just a church in Gainesville, Fla., with 50 members burning a Quran, it was every Christian in America," Mahoney said. "He wouldn't just be burning a book, he would be burning bridges and relationships."

After leaving Florida following a meeting with Jones, Mahoney couldn't stop thinking about the Qurans. Back home, worshiping at Grace Church of Fredericksburg, he had an idea.

"I felt if churches had them, they would be a reminder that once these Qurans would be burned, but now they can be used to build bridges," said Mahoney.

He plans a press conference this morning to announce his plans for the holy books.

This weekend, he hopes to give a Quran to a Fredericksburg-area church.

For Mahoney, rescuing the Qurans is another step in a journey he began several years ago.

He reached out to the Islamic community and has since prayed with Muslim leaders in Iraq and Morocco.

In recent months, with Jones' plans and a controversy over a proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero, Mahoney said the need for interfaith dialogue has grown exponentially.

"These are murky waters we are trying to navigate," he said. "Rarely do any rise to the complex challenges we are facing between the Christian community and the Islamic community here in America."

Mahoney has spoken with several Muslims about his plans and said reactions have been mixed.

"Most are extremely happy that the Qurans won't be destroyed or harmed. Some have reservations about placing them and giving them to churches and Christian leaders," Mahoney said. "All expressed gratitude that they were not being burned."

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

American Woman Set Free After $500,000 Bail Deal

TEHRAN, Iran – In just a few dizzying hours, American Sarah Shourd exchanged a cell in Tehran's Evin Prison for a private jet crossing the Persian Gulf on Tuesday, after an apparent diplomatic deal to cover a $500,000 bail and secure a release that seemed in jeopardy from the start.

Shourd was met by her mother and U.S. diplomats at a royal airfield in the capital of Oman, which U.S. officials say played a critical role in organizing the bail payment and assuring it did not violate American economic sanctions on Iran.

Shourd stepped off the private Omani jet and into the arms of her mother in their first embrace since a brief visit in May overseen by Iranian authorities — and her first day of freedom in more than 13 months. Shourd smiled broadly as they strolled arm-in-arm through the heat of the late summer night along the Gulf of Oman.

"I'm grateful and I'm very humbled by this moment," she said before boarding the plane in Tehran for the two-hour flight to Oman.

The whirlwind departure of the 32-year-old Shourd brought little change for two other Americans — her fiance Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal — who remained behind bars while authorities moved toward possible trials on spy charges that could bring up to 10 years in prison if they are convicted.

The three were detained along the Iraq border in July 2009. Their families say they were innocent hikers in the scenic mountains of Iraq's Kurdish region and if they did stray across the border into Iran, they did so unwittingly.

"All of our families are relieved and overjoyed that Sarah has at last been released, but we're also heartbroken that Shane and Josh are still being denied their freedom for no just cause ... They deserve to come home, too," said a statement by the three families.

Iran, however, has shown no hints of clemency for the two 28-year-old men. Indictments on espionage-related charges have been filed and Tehran's chief prosecutor has suggested the cases could soon move into the courts, with Shourd tried in absentia.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he welcomed Shourd's release "and I appreciate the flexibility of Iranian government."

"At the same time, as secretary-general of the United Nations, I would sincerely hope that Iranian government will again very favorably consider releasing the remaining two American hikers so that they could join their families as soon as possible," he said in an interview in New York with AP and AP Television News.

Any other scenario could bring more unwanted attention to the growing rivalries inside Iran's Islamic leadership.

Even the gesture to release Shourd on health grounds — first raised as an act of Islamic benevolence last week by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — turned into a spectacle of high-level political bullying and sniping over who controlled her fate and the overall wisdom of letting her go.

The open bickering seemed to harden the divisions that have been developing since the brush with chaos after Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election last year.

On one side are Ahmadinejad and his allies, led by the vast military and economic network of the Revolutionary Guard — what some analysts have called the "militarization" of the Islamic state. The other pole reflects the old guard of Iran's once-unchallenged authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the traditional pillars of the theocracy such as the judiciary.

In Shourd's case, the judges came out on top. They humbled Ahmadinejad and set the ground rules for her release with a staggeringly high bail.

But in the wider sense, the feuds display the fraying consensus among Iran's conservative leadership — with Ahmadinejad's critics increasingly outspoken in their claims he is trying to expand his reach and redraw Iran's political map.

Such rifts could eventually make it harder for Iran to speak in one voice on key issues, such as its nuclear program and any future overtures to end 30 years of diplomatic estrangement with the United States.

"Iran's leadership managed to put down the opposition after Ahmadinejad's election, and now they are fighting among themselves," said Mehrzad Boroujerdi, a professor of Iranian affairs at Syracuse University.

Ahmadinejad may have felt the sting from the judiciary over the handling of Shourd's release. But he came away with the outcome he sought: a goodwill gesture less than a week before he is scheduled to arrive in New York ahead of the U.N. General Assembly.

Ahmadinejad has said Shourd was being released on compassionate grounds. Her mother says she has serious medical problems, including a breast lump and precancerous cervical cells.

Shourd's release, some analysts say, could be used by Iran as a way to deflect the international outcry over a stoning sentence for a woman convicted of adultery and the continued crackdown on opposition groups — which led two Iranian ambassadors in Europe to quit this week and seek asylum.

"Ahmadinejad is possibly trying to make the environment less hostile in New York," said Rasool Nafisi, a researcher on Iranian affairs at Strayer University in Virginia.

Even in the last minutes, Ahmadinejad tried to put his stamp on the release. His adviser on women's affairs, Maruyam Mojtahedzadeh, was on hand to greet Shourd at Tehran's Mehrabad Airport.

In a statement to Iran's state-run Press TV before boarding the flight to Oman, Shourd thanked Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders for "this humanitarian gesture."

"I want to really offer my thanks to everyone in the world, all of the governments, all of the people, that have been involved," added Shourd, wearing a maroon headscarf and a tan coat.

Upon arrival in Oman, Shourd also thanked the sultan for his help and said she would turn her efforts to trying to win the release of her companions. Her immediate travel plans were unclear. A U.S. official said she would be in Oman for at least a day.

Shourd, who grew up in Los Angeles, Bauer, who grew up in Onamia, Minn., and Fattal, who grew up in Elkins Park, Pa., were detained on July 31, 2009, and accused of illegally crossing into Iran and spying in a case that has deepened tensions with Washington.

Up until the moment Shourd was led outside the gray walls of Evin Prison, it was unclear whether the opening for her release could just as suddenly close.

A day earlier, a commentary by a news agency linked to the Revolutionary Guard called the bail an insult to Iran's security and intelligence forces. Shourd's family then said they couldn't afford the amount and the State Department noted it would not offer financial help.

Then came the unexpected news from Tehran's chief prosecutor, Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi, that bail had been paid to Iran's Bank Melli in the Omani capital Muscat. Shourd's family has not disclosed the source of the funds — opening speculation that a diplomatic pact was cut with Oman.

A U.S. official said neither the U.S. government nor the families of the hikers put up the money, but could not say who else might have paid it.

All signs pointed to Oman, both a close Western and Iranian ally that wraps around the southeast corner of the Arabian peninsula.

Oman is seen as an important diplomatic bridge with Tehran because the two nations share close bonds as guardians of the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Gulf, the seaway for an estimated 40 percent of the world's oil.

Another U.S. official said Omani negotiators had played a critical, behind-the-scenes role, working with Iran's judiciary and Swiss diplomats who handle U.S. affairs in Iran. Oman was key in coordinating the bail payment, the official said — suggesting some kind of channel to avoid violating American sanctions on Iran.

Both U.S. officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

U.S. sanctions put blanket restrictions on transactions with Iran's main state bank, Bank Melli, which has been the channel for past bail payments to Iranian courts by foreign detainees. Washington accuses the bank of helping fund Iran's ballistic missile development and its nuclear program, which the U.S. says could eventually lead to atomic weapons. Iran says it only seeks peaceful nuclear reactors for energy.

In a statement, Oman's government said it "welcomes" Shourd's release and hoped "other positive steps will follow in the course of the Iranian-American relations."

President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton both thanked Oman for its assistance.

Oman "in recent days and weeks became a key interlocutor to help us work this case with the Iranian government," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said. "And we are very grateful to the role that Oman has played."

He could not say if any money had changed hands in winning Shourd's release, but noted that "arrangements were made that satisfied Iranian requirements under their judicial system."

At the same time, Crowley said the U.S. government had no information to suggest any U.S. or international sanctions on Iran had been violated.

"I am very pleased that Sarah Shourd has been released by the Iranian government, and will soon be united with her family," Obama said in a statement.

Shourd's mother, Nora, said she has hoped and prayed for this moment for 410 days.

"Sarah has had a long and difficult detainment and I am going to make sure that she now gets the care and attention she needs and the time and space to recover," she said. "I can only imagine how bittersweet her freedom must be for her, leaving Shane and Josh behind."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

From Poem To Lyrics- "The Star Spangled Banner"

On Sept. 14, 1814, Francis Scott Key wrote a poem after witnessing how Fort McHenry in Maryland had endured a night of British bombardment during the War of 1812; that poem, "Defence of Fort McHenry," later became the lyrics to "The Star-Spangled Banner," the American national anthem.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Medal Of Honor Goes To Living Soldier

The White House announced today that President Barack Obama will award the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military decoration, to an Army sergeant who will be the first living soldier to receive the honor since the Vietnam War.

The president personally called Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, an Army specialist in Afghanistan at the time the events took place, to let him know of the decision, the White House said in a statement. He was awarded the medal for placing his life in danger when he and fellow paratroopers were ambushed by the Taliban in 2007.

"When an insurgent force ambush split Specialist Giunta's squad into two groups, he exposed himself to enemy fire to pull a comrade back to cover," the White House statement about the award reads. "Later, while engaging the enemy and attempting to link up with the rest of his squad, Specialist Giunta noticed two insurgents carrying away a fellow soldier. He immediately engaged the enemy, killing one and wounding the other, and provided medical aid to his wounded comrade while the rest of his squad caught up and provided security."

Awarding the Medal of Honor to Giunta, 25, carries symbolic weight beyond the individual decision to award it to a living service member. Only a handful of the medals have been awarded, even posthumously, to service members who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A more detailed description of Giunta's heroic actions has been pieced together through interviews with him and other soldiers present that day in 2007, when they were ambushed by Taliban fighters in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley.

Giunta "was knocked flat by the gunfire; luckily, a well-aimed round failed to penetrate his armored chest plate," The Washington Post reports. "As the paratroopers tried to gather their senses and scramble for a shred of cover, Giunta reacted instinctively, running straight into the teeth of the ambush to aid three wounded soldiers, one by one, who had been separated from the others."

A New York Times Magazine article, which provided a blow-by-blow description of the ambush and ensuing battle, described Giunta as a "quiet Iowan lofted into a heroism he didn't want."

Fewer than 3,500 Medals of Honor have been awarded since 1863.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Koran Burning Denounced By Clinton and Gates

WASHINGTON (AP) — The top two national security advisers in President Obama's Cabinet on Wednesday denounced plans by a small church in Florida to burn the Muslim holy book to commemorate the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, saying it would inflame tensions and put Americans abroad at risk.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said the plan was ill-advised and echoed concerns first raised by the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, who warned that the proposed weekend event would place the lives of American troops in jeopardy there and elsewhere. U.S. officials in Iraq agreed.

In remarks to the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, Mrs. Clinton called the plans "outrageous" and "aberrational" and said they do not represent America or American values of religious tolerance and inclusiveness.

She also lamented that the tiny Dove World Outreach Center congregation in Gainesville had gotten so much attention for what she called a "distrustful and disgraceful" means of marking the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"It is regrettable that a pastor in Gainesville, Florida, with a church of no more than 50 people can make this outrageous and distrustful, disgraceful plan and get the world's attention, but that's the world we live in right now," Mrs. Clinton said. "It is unfortunate; it is not who we are," she said.

Through a Pentagon spokesman, Col. David Lapan, Mr. Gates added his voice to the growing controversy.

"No one is questioning the right to do these things. We are questioning whether that's advisable considering the consequences that could occur," Mr. Lapan said. "General Petraeus has been very vocal and very public on this, and his position reflects the secretary's as well."

Gen. Petraeus on Tuesday said that "images of the burning of a Quran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan — and around the world — to inflame public opinion and incite violence." In addition, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the former top commander in Iraq, said Wednesday he feared extremists will use the incident to sow hatred against U.S. troops overseas.

In Iraq, where almost 50,000 American troops are still serving, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey and the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Gen. Lloyd Austin, joined in the condemnation, calling the plan "disrespectful, divisive and disgraceful."

"As this holy month of Ramadan comes to a close and Iraqis prepare to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, we join with the citizens of Iraq and of every nation to repudiate religious intolerance and to respect and defend the diversity of faiths of our fellow man," they said in a joint statement released by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

Despite the widespread condemnation, the Rev. Terry Jones, the church's pastor, has vowed to go ahead with the event.

Mrs. Clinton appealed for Mr. Jones to reconsider and cancel. And, in the event he goes ahead with the plan, she suggested to laughter from the audience, that the news media ignore it.

"We are hoping that the pastor decides not to do this," she said. "We're hoping against hope that if he does, it won't be covered as an act of patriotism."

"We want to be judged by who we are as a nation, not by something that is so aberrational, and we will make that case as strongly as possible."

Moving the NYC Mosque Could Cause Violent Backlash Says Imam

NEW YORK – The imam behind a proposed Islamic community center and mosque near ground zero cautioned Wednesday that moving the facility could cause a violent backlash from Muslim extremists and endanger national security.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf told CNN that the discourse surrounding the center has become so politicized that moving it could strengthen the ability of extremists abroad to recruit and wage attacks against Americans, including troops fighting in the Middle East.

"The headlines in the Muslim world will be that Islam is under attack," he said, but he added that he was open to the idea of moving the planned location of the center, currently two blocks north of the World Trade Center site.

"But if you don't do this right, anger will explode in the Muslim world," he later said, predicting that the reaction could be more furious than the eruption of violence following the 2005 publication of Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

Opponents say the center, which would include a Sept. 11 memorial and a Muslim prayer space, should be moved farther away from where Islamic extremists destroyed the World Trade Center and killed nearly 2,800 people. Supporters say religious freedom should be protected.

Rauf, 61, has largely been absent since the debate over the center erupted earlier this year. He has been traveling abroad, including taking a State Department-funded 15-day trip to the Middle East to promote religious tolerance.

In the interview with CNN's Soledad O'Brien, his first since returning to the U.S. on Sunday, Rauf responded to a number of questions that have been raised about the project.

He said money to develop the center would be raised domestically for the most part.

"And we'll be very transparent on how we raise money," he said, adding that no funds would be accepted from sources linked to extremists.

Rauf said that, in retrospect, he might have chosen a different location for what he described as a multifaith community center.

"If I knew this would happen, if it would cause this kind of pain, I wouldn't have done it," he said.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Employment Authorization Document No Longer Accepted by DMV in Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. — A federal document that immigrants use to prove they are legal U.S. residents is not longer good enough to get a Virginia driver's license.

Gov. Bob McDonnell ordered the Department of Motor Vehicles to no longer consider Employment Authorization Documents evidence that a person is in the country legally. About 20 other federal documents will still be accepted.

The governor acted after a 23-year-old Bolivian national with drunken driving convictions in 2007 and 2008 was involved in a crash that killed a nun and injured two others in her order in Prince William County. Police say Carlos Martinelly Montano was drunk at the time.

Montano had used the form to get a Virginia license even though he faced deportation proceedings, authorities say.

WTOP radio in Washington, D.C., reported Tuesday that a grand jury indicted Montano on a murder charge that could land him in prison for 40 years if he's convicted.

Prince William police chief Charlie Deane last week asked federal authorities to stop issuing employment authorization cards, known as I-766 documents, to immigrants who face deportation. The cards are issued by the Citizenship and Immigration Service arm of the Department of Homeland Security.

An advocate for immigrants said the governor's response was political pandering that ignores what she said was the problem of scant punishment for repeat drunken drivers.

"The governor should be asking why he (Montano) was released from jail after serving just 20 days instead of the full 364," Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, a Richmond-based lobbyist on behalf of immigrants' rights. Montano had been sentenced to a serve a year on his second DUI conviction.

"The real situation here is we're not enforcing our drunk driving laws," she said.

Montano got his I-766 card, in January 2009 as federal deportation actions were pending. He presented the card to the DMV to establish legal presence in the U.S. But he did not have a Virginia license on Aug. 1 when his car slammed head-on into a car carrying three Benedictine nuns on their way to a retreat.

Sister Denise Mosier was killed in the crash. Sisters Connie Ruth Lupton and Charlotte Lange were critically injured.

"We must ensure that documents accepted as proof of legal presence are reliable," McDonnell, a Republican and a Roman Catholic, said in a news release. "Virginia law is clear in the requirement that an individual be lawfully in the United States to be eligible for an identification card or to have the privilege to drive."

Gastanaga said the federally issued cards are not given to illegal immigrants, and that they are merely records information about the bearer's physical appearance such as height, weight, hair and eye color information.

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in August advised police across Virginia that they have the authority to ask about the immigration status of anyone they've stopped or arrested. His advisory opinion, which lacks the legal force of a court ruling, would give Virginia officers many of the same powers police in Arizona have under a new law there intended to crack down on illegal immigration.

The American Civil Liberties Union urged police to ignore Cuccinelli's guidance, saying lacks any legal foundation and conjures constitutional conflicts.

Muslim Center Plans Going As Scheduled

NEW YORK, Sept. 7 (UPI) -- The imam of the Farah mosque in New York said Tuesday "we are proceeding" with plans for Cordoba House near Ground Zero despite "the furor" surrounding it.

In an op-ed article published by The New York Times, Feisal Abdul Rauf, the chairman of the Cordoba Initiative, offered his first public comments on the controversy surrounding the project, also called Park51. He has been out of the United States for two months, speaking about religious tolerance and cooperation, and said in the newspaper article that he and "nearly everyone" he met had "been awed by how inflamed and emotional the issue of the proposed community center has become."

"The level of attention reflects the degree to which people care about the very American values under debate: recognition of the rights of others, tolerance and freedom of worship," Rauf wrote.

"We are proceeding with the community center, Cordoba House. More important, we are doing so with the support of the downtown community, government at all levels and leaders from across the religious spectrum, who will be our partners. I am convinced that it is the right thing to do for many reasons."

Rauf said the community center "will amplify the multifaith approach that the Cordoba Initiative has deployed in concrete ways for years.""Our initiative is intended to cultivate understanding among all religions and cultures," he said.

Rauf said the initative's "broader mission" is to "strengthen relations between the Western and Muslim worlds and to help counter radical ideology" and he said it was essential to confront polarizing issues rather than avoid them.

He said he is "very sensitive to the feelings" of survivors of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack that took almost 3,000 lives and destroyed the World Trade Center twin towers.

"We will accordingly seek the support of those families, and the support of our vibrant neighborhood, as we consider the ultimate plans for the community center," Rauf said. "Our objective has always been to make this a center for unification and healing."

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

School Is Now Open................

A new school year begins today. Hundreds of students will descend upon the public schools in Accomack and Northampton County today as the school systems, continuing to face the burdens of state budget cuts, will work to keep quality education their main goal.

Accomack County School Superintendent Rick Bull said in a letter to parents dated Sept. 6 "Like many school divisions across the state of Virginia, Accomack County has been charged with reducing its budget while still maintaining high quality services for its students. Our long-range fiscal planning has ensured the resources needed to educate students in modern facilities with staff sizes aligned with the Virginia Standards of Accreditation. The support of the School Board and Board of Supervisors cannot be overstated. These positive working relationships have helped us achieve great things in our division."

Bull went on to say that despite difficult economic times, Accomack County Schools remain dedicated to providing each and every student in the division a quality education.

This years Accomack County Schools projected budget is 45,201,416 which is a little over $500,000 less than last years budget.

Northampton County School students and parents will be looking at a new policy regarding cell phones in schools.

Elementary students are not permitted to have cell phones at school and high school students are only permitted to have cell phones out after the instructional day has ended.

High school students must keep the cell phones in their vehicles or lockers until after school ends.

Any cell phones confiscated during the day will be kept by the school administrators until the last day of school in June.

Northampton County also faced budget cuts for the 2010-2011 school year. Those figures werent available to us at the time this story was composed.

Broadwater Academy also welcomes students today. Shore Christian Academy began its year August 25.