Sunday, 8 June 2014

Obama to take executive steps on student loans

 Obama to take executive steps on student loans

Obama to take executive steps on student loans, Obama plans to announce Monday that he's expanding an existing program that prevents borrowers from having to pay more than 10 percent of their monthly income in student loan payments. That program is only available to people who borrowed during certain years, but Obama intends to expand the timeframe for eligibility.

Obama also plans to announce that he's directing the government to renegotiate contracts with federal student loan servicers so encourage them to make it easier for borrowers to avoid defaulting on their loans.

And the president is going to ask the Treasury and Education departments to work with tax preparers to increase awareness about tuition tax credits and flexible repayment options.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

President Barack Obama used the college commencement season Saturday to get behind Senate Democratic legislation that would let college graduates with heavy debts refinance their loans.

The Senate is expected to debate the legislation next week, but it faces significant obstacles.

In his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama noted the program would be paid for by doing away with tax loopholes for millionaires. He says the choice facing lawmakers is whether to "protect young people from crushing debt or protect tax breaks for millionaires."

According to the Institute for College Access and Success, the average debt for the class of 2012 was $29,400. Obama also notes that the unemployment rate for college graduates is about half what it is for high school graduates and that a typical college graduate makes $15,000 more a year than a worker with just a high school degree.

"At a time when college has never been more important, it's also never been more expensive," he says.

The White House is drawing attention to college affordability and student loans Monday with an event featuring Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky in a statement criticized the bill for not addressing college costs.

"This bill doesn't make college more affordable, reduce the amount of money students will have to borrow, or do anything about the lack of jobs grads face in the Obama economy," he said.

In the Republican weekly address, Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida, the chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, called attention to recent findings of widespread problems with delayed or mishandled appointments at VA hospitals. He says Obama needs to describe fixes that improve VA service for the long-term.

"This is the biggest health care scandal in the VA's history, and America deserves to know whether the president is committed to doing whatever it takes to make things right," Miller said.

Texas GOP endorses 'reparative therapy' for gays

 Texas GOP endorses 'reparative therapy' for gays

Texas GOP endorses 'reparative therapy' for gays, Roughly 7,000 delegates Saturday ratified the platform without debating their party's stance on homosexuality on the convention floor. They instead argued for five hours over immigration and medical marijuana before adjourning.

Gay conservatives had lined up to speak against the therapy language that had been added earlier this week. But they never got a chance to address delegates because a parliamentary motion to approve the full platform was called first.

An influential tea party group called Texas Eagle Forum had urged the party to support psychological treatments that seek to turn gay people straight.

State sends supplies to site holding migrant kids

 State sends supplies to site holding migrant kids

State sends supplies to site holding migrant kids, The Homeland Security official told The Associated Press that about 2,000 mattresses have been ordered for the makeshift holding center — a warehouse that has not been used to shelter people in years.

Gov. Jan Brewer's spokesman, Andrew Wilder, said Friday that conditions at the center are so dire that federal officials have asked the state to immediately ship medical supplies to the center in Nogales.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security started flying immigrants in the country illegally to Arizona from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas last month after the number of immigrants — including more than 48,000 children traveling on their own — overwhelmed the Border Patrol there.

Immigrant families were flown from Texas, released in Arizona, and told to report to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office near where they were traveling within 15 days. ICE has said the immigrants were mostly families from Central America fleeing extreme poverty and violence.

The Homeland Security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because there was no authorization to discuss the matter publicly, said the holding center opened for unaccompanied migrant children because the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had nowhere to turn.

"They became so overwhelmed and haven't kept up with planning," the official said.

At the holding center, vendors are being contracted to provide nutritional meals, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, meanwhile, will provide counseling services and recreational activities.

The Homeland Security official said the number of children at the warehouse was expected to double to around 1,400. The warehouse has a capacity of about 1,500.

The Arizona Daily Star reported Saturday ( ) that Jimena Díaz, consul general of Guatemala in Phoenix, visited the center Friday and said there were about 250 children from Guatemala, with the rest coming from El Salvador and Honduras.

Diaz told the newspaper that the children are being kept in separate groups, divided by age and gender. Most of them are between 15 and 17, Diaz said, with a few much younger than that. Teenage mothers with their children are also being detained separately, he said.

The warehouse began sheltering children flown from South Texas last Saturday. About 400 were scheduled to arrive Friday but, because of mechanical issues with the planes, only about 60 came, the Homeland Security official said. Saturday's flights were canceled, also because of mechanical problems. There are flights scheduled through mid-June.

Federal authorities plan to use the Nogales facility as a way station, where the children will be vaccinated and checked medically. They will then be sent to facilities being set up in Ventura, California; San Antonio, Texas; and Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

Customs and Border Protection in Arizona "is prepared to and expects to continue processing unaccompanied children from South Texas," said Victor L. Brabble, a spokesman for the agency in Tucson.

The Homeland Security official said that the children would be moved out of the Nogales site as soon as Health and Human Services finds places for them.

But the official said: "As quickly as we move them out, we get more. We believe this is just a start."

The children being held in Nogales are 17 or younger. The official estimated three of every four were at least 16.

Nogales Mayor Arturo Garino visited the facility Saturday, but he did not get inside the site where the children were being held. Garino said he did meet with Border Patrol officials. He was told some of the children are as young as 1 year old.

"I have all the faith in the world as mayor and as a citizen of Nogales that our Border Patrol is doing the best and the most kind and humane thing with the children," Garino said.

The town has begun collecting clothing donations for the kids, he said.

"Border Patrol has always been good to the city of Nogales, and they work very closely with us," Garino said. "Now, as a city, we need to help Border Patrol so that they can accomplish their goal of making sure these children are all taken care of."

Immigration officials can immediately return Mexican immigrants to the border, but they are much more hard-pressed to deal with Central American migrants who illegally cross into the U.S. In recent months, waves of migrants from nations south of Mexico have arrived in Texas.

The Homeland Security official said that legally, only their parents or guardians can take custody if the government makes the children eligible for release.

Officials in Central America and Mexico have noticed a recent increase in women and children crossing the border. Father Heyman Vazquez, the director of a migrant shelter in Huixtla in the southern Mexico state of Chiapas, said he and others advise children that it's too dangerous.

Yet Vazquez is seeing more and more youths heading north.

"I remember a little boy of 9 years old and I asked if he was going to go meet someone and he told me 'No, I'm just going hand myself over because I hear they help kids,' " Vazquez said.

Bowe Bergdahl's father receives death threats: police chief

 Bowe Bergdahl's father receives death threats: police chief

Bowe Bergdahl's father receives death threats: police chief, The first of the death threats sent to Bob Bergdahl at his home near Hailey, Idaho, was received on Wednesday, the same day the city canceled a planned rally celebrating the release of his son, Hailey Police Chief Jeff Gunter said.

"There were four specific emails with death threats given to the FBI and they are looking into it,” Gunter told Reuters in an interview.

Authorities are providing security to Bob Bergdahl and his wife, Jani, but Gunter declined to elaborate on those measures.

Bergdahl's release after being held for nearly five years in Afghanistan provoked an angry backlash in Congress among lawmakers over the Obama administration's failure to notify them in advance. Some of Bergdahl's former comrades have charged that he was captured in 2009 after deserting his post.

U.S. military leaders have said the circumstances of Bergdahl’s capture are unclear, with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel urging critics to wait for all the facts to be known before rushing to judgment on Bergdahl.

The threats came as Hailey, a tourist community of some 8,000 people in the mountains of central Idaho, was buffeted by hundreds of vitriolic phone calls and emails.

The celebratory spirit that infused Hailey a week ago with news of Bergdahl’s release turned to apprehension as an onslaught of angry messages were directed at city officials, businesses and friends of the Bergdahls over a hometown rally to mark his freedom planned for June 28.

As many as 15,000 supporters and protesters were expected to descend on Hailey for an event that would have overwhelmed the resources and infrastructure of the remote mountain town and potentially risked public safety and property, city officials have said.

Residents of the close-knit community have been surprised and dismayed by an angry backlash that seemed to fault them for seeking to aid the Bergdahls in a time of need, Gunter said.

“We’ve always come together in tragedy or crisis, whether it be fire or one of our own being a prisoner of war. Whatever the problem is, the community will be there to help the people experiencing it,” he said.

Donations pour in for Seattle campus-shooting hero

 Donations pour in for Seattle campus-shooting hero

Donations pour in for Seattle campus-shooting hero, Jon Meis and other students stopped the gunman Thursday at Seattle Pacific University. Meis has been credited with pepper-spraying and pinning the gunman while he was reloading his shotgun.

Soon after Meis was identified, praise began to pour out on social media sites. Someone found Meis' wedding registry, and people quickly bought out the gifts listed.

That's when sports radio producer Jessamyn McIntyre got the idea to begin a GoFundMe site for Meis and his fiancé's honeymoon and future. The site quickly went viral.

According to the page's statistics, more than 700 donations have come in as of Saturday afternoon — tallies that are expected to increase.

McIntyre said she hasn't had direct contact with the Meis family, who has asked for privacy. But she has left them her contact information. She also contacted university officials.

McIntyre will leave the fundraising page up for a week, unless the family asks her to take it down, she said.

On the donations page, people continue praising Meis. One person posted, "Only one word needed: Inspiring," to go with a $20 donation.

A 26-year-old suspect was charged after the shooting that left a 19-year-old man dead and two other young people wounded. The quick action by Meis likely saved lives, police said.

Arizona judge rules pot can be used for PTSD

 Arizona judge rules pot can be used for PTSD

Arizona judge rules pot can be used for PTSD, State Department of Health Services Director Will Humble has until July 9 to accept, modify or reject an administrative law judge's ruling that PTSD sufferers are eligible for a medical marijuana registration card.

Humble said Friday that he would study the order before making a decision.

The Arizona Cannabis Nurses Association appealed Humble's denial last December to classify PTSD as an ailment that could be treated with pot.

Humble said he initially denied the group's petition, citing a lack of scientific evidence showing marijuana helps patients with the disorder.

Judge Thomas Shedden, however, said in his opinion that there was substantial evidence that those with PTSD receive a "palliative benefit from marijuana use." Shedden said medical professionals often rely on patients' input for when making off-label prescriptions.

Ricardo Pereyda was among those who testified at the hearing on how marijuana can help with post-traumatic stress. The Iraq War veteran said prescription drugs for his anger, depression and other issues only gave him adverse side effects. It wasn't until he started using cannabis in 2010 that he felt happier and more focused.

Pereyda said he doesn't understand why Humble would take a month to make a decision.

"What is it that you need to wait and see before that day that you haven't seen in the past four days? Get it done. People are dying. And that's not just veterans," Pereyda said.

Having a medical marijuana card would also let veterans and other PTSD victims feel protected legally while seeking treatment.

"What if I got caught with an ounce or something like that? Under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, I would have had a card and it would have been perfectly legal," Pereyda said.

If Humble rejects the judge's ruling, the group can appeal to the Maricopa County Superior Court.

Eleven states currently approve medicinal marijuana for treating PTSD.

In April, veterans lobbied lawmakers to pay for a clinical study at the University of Arizona that looks at the health benefits of medical marijuana. Advocates say that pot needs to be studied to learn how it might be able to remedy post-traumatic stress disorder. They say legislation that would have enabled the state to use part of the fund it receives from sales of medical-marijuana permits was unfairly killed in the legislature.

The University of Arizona received approval from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to conduct long-delayed marijuana research that has been in the works for more than two decades. The approval was an important milestone for the project, but it still needs money from the state of Arizona to carry out the research, along with approval from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

Detroit rolls dice by relying on casino cash

 Detroit rolls dice by relying on casino cash

Detroit rolls dice by relying on casino cash, A trial to approve Detroit's plan to exit its $18 billion bankruptcy, the largest municipal crash in U.S. history, begins in late July. Flawed revenue projections may undermine its feasibility, creating a key legal hurdle to win approval by the court. On a practical level, a revenue shortfall could knock the city down just as it is getting back on its feet.

Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr projects that wagering tax revenue from three local casinos, the city's third largest source of cash, will remain essentially steady as far ahead as 2023.

Orr has described the gambling taxes as Detroit's most stable source of money. But casino revenue has declined of late in Detroit itself and in recent years traditional gambling hubs like Nevada and New Jersey as well as relative newcomers to the wagering scene, such as neighboring Ohio, have seen swoons.

"Projecting casino revenue is notoriously difficult," Moody's Investors Service casino analyst Keith Foley said. "But nobody is saying it is going to get better."

For instance, casino revenue from Atlantic City has roughly halved since 2007, a drop no one saw coming, Foley said. Total U.S. casino revenue in 2012 was still just shy of a 10-year peak of $37.5 billion set in 2007, according to the American Gaming Association.

A litany of factors stack up against Orr's forecast, industry analysts and experts say: younger people show little interest in gambling, the casino market is saturated, and thousands of local residents are likely to see their wages drop due to the bankruptcy plan.

Bill Nowling, a spokesman for Orr, says the casino tax projection is conservative and was calculated by Detroit's financial restructuring advisors, Ernst & Young. He said the calculations were also based on anticipated Michigan unemployment rates "continuing to improve and inflation to hold at or below 1 percent annually."

He declined to elaborate on projections but said if they were too high, Detroit "will live within its means and will match spending with available revenue."

The casino revenue has already been the subject of legal wrangling in the bankruptcy. In April, the bankruptcy judge approved a deal brokered by Orr that kept the casino revenue from being diverted to two creditor banks.


In fiscal year 2013, casino taxes brought in $174.6 million, down 3.7 percent from $181.4 million the year before, according to Orr's latest plan of adjustment filed in May. That was nearly 17 percent of Detroit's general fund revenues, with only income taxes and state funds larger revenue sources.

Orr's plan predicts it will continue to drop to just over $168 million in 2015, then recover to its 2012 level by 2023, at a growth rate of 1 percent a year from 2016 until 2023.

But just a 1 percent annual downturn in wagering taxes after 2016 would lead to a more than $25 million shortfall in 2023 alone, according to calculations by Reuters.

Overall, revenue at the three casinos fell 4.75 percent in 2013. The decline has continued so far this year, with revenue over the first four months falling more than 6 percent from a year earlier.

"Obviously they are going to have to justify this projection at trial," said Richard Larkin, director of credit analysis at investment bank HJ Sims. "Casino revenue is not a traditional, long-term revenue source."

A flaw in projecting casino revenue "could signal far deeper problems with city's plan of adjustment and the city's intended plans for recovery," said Peter Hammer, a law professor at Detroit's Wayne State University.

"It decreases substantially the confidence you have about the viability of the rest of the plan, which involves much more complicated issues," Hammer said.

Moody's Foley has a similar concern about the casinos: "What if Detroit has another 5 percent decline next year? Then their budget is already way off track."

After all, Detroit is not alone in seeing a fall off in casino revenue. It is down in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Connecticut, Atlantic City and Ohio in the past two years, according to figures from each state.


Analysts and backers of Orr's projections say there are factors that might mitigate a slide in Detroit's casino revenue, compared to other areas. State law allows only three gambling houses in the city, a cushion against more competition. The city is the most convenient gambling center for southeast Michigan, northeastern Indiana and northwest Ohio.

Jennifer Kulczycki, a spokeswoman for the company that owns one of the city's casinos, Greektown, said that while revenue had softened, "we are optimistic for things to return to previous levels - and then some. The Detroit market is 14 years old and it has been very resistant."

A central issue is whether these declines are temporary or permanent.

In an April report, Moody's Foley warned that Detroit's bankruptcy threatens a reduction in gambling spending because city employees face lower pensions and retiree health benefits under Orr's restructuring plan. The city is Detroit's second biggest employer, according to Crain's Detroit Business.

Demographics are also a worry, said Alex Calderone, a business turnaround specialist based in Michigan, who was part of the team that took the city's Greektown Casino-Hotel through bankruptcy between 2008 and 2010. Greektown is up and running under a new owner - Dan Gilbert, the founder and CEO of Quicken Loans, who is investing heavily in downtown Detroit.

Standing in the casino, surrounded by the cacophony of slot machines and clouds of cigarette smoke, Calderone asked: "Where are the young people?" There is no replacement for the predominately older age group who gamble, he said.

"Young people have little inclination to play slot machines," according to a recent analysis by Deutsche Bank. It cited research by the Meczka consulting group, which said only 18 percent of people aged between 21 and 35 visit casinos.


Experts also look to Las Vegas as a leading indicator in gambling behavior. According to the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Nevada, more people now visit the Vegas strip to eat and go night clubbing than gamble.

But Detroit is not Vegas. Casino-hotels on the Vegas strip such as Caesar's Palace and Wynn Las Vegas have spectacular nightly shows, and high-end bars, restaurants and shops. Moreover, Detroit's casino tax is based on gambling revenue alone.

While Detroit's biggest casino, MGM Grand Detroit, part of MGM Resorts International<MGM.N>, would not look out of place among the glass and marble casinos of the Vegas strip, it and the nearby MotorCity sit in a virtual urban desert. Their surroundings are bleak - a far cry from glitzy and perpetually warm Las Vegas.

Last year revenues fell 6.3 percent at the MGM and 1.2 percent at MotorCity, and have continued to drop this year. Greektown's revenue fell more: from $352.1 million to $328.3 million, or 6.8 percent.

In contrast to its larger two rivals, Greektown is in need of a makeover. Its carpets are old, its facilities drab.

But plans for a full face lift have been scaled back. According to a February filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Gilbert's company that owns Greektown, Athens Acquisitions LLC, said a planned $150 million renovation had been cut back to a $25 million to $50 million refurbishment.

"In a casino that's basically just changing the carpet," said Ken Adams, a gaming consultant.

US values collided in Bergdahl's predicament

 US values collided in Bergdahl's predicament

US values collided in Bergdahl's predicament, The one about never leaving a man behind prevailed. The one about never negotiating with terrorists got lost in the swirling dust storm of a U.S. helicopter retrieving the soldier from his Taliban captors in a swap now provoking recriminations in Washington.

Each ethos runs deep in the American conscience, yet has been violated through history, notably in the age of terrorism, where traditional standards of warfare, spying and negotiating are run through a hall of mirrors.

Bergdahl and the five Guantanamo detainees traded for his freedom were captives in an undeclared, unconventional and open-ended war that never fit neatly into the Geneva Conventions, U.S. military doctrine or slogans about how to behave. Whatever universal rights are affirmed by the old standards, they came from an era of recognizable battlefields and POW camps, with victories and defeats signed with flourishes of a pen.

History is replete with extraordinary acts to bring home the lost and fallen.

The U.S. Army's Warrior Ethos and the Soldier's Creed both swear, "I will never leave a fallen comrade," and all the services place a premium on returning the missing, captured and dead. Often this comes at great cost, as in the 1993 Black Hawk Down battle in Somalia in which 18 U.S. servicemen were killed in the attack on U.S. helicopters and the subsequent rescue attempt.

President Barack Obama said the ethos is a "sacred" undertaking that applies to all in uniform without regard to rank or circumstance or, in Bergdahl's case, his questionable loyalty to the Army. "We have a basic principle," Obama said Thursday. "We do not leave anybody wearing the American uniform behind."

As Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John F. Kirby put it: "When you're in the Navy, and you go overboard, it doesn't matter if you were pushed, fell or jumped. We're going to turn the ship around and pick you up."

Not always.

The debate over Bergdahl is roiling as world leaders and ordinary citizens commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day. The legions storming the beaches of Normandy, France, from the sea and dropping behind German lines from the sky faced snap decisions under withering fire about what to do with the wounded or trapped. Army history tells of wounded paratroopers left behind for the sake of the mission or the survival of their units. Sometimes medics were left behind, too, because they insisted on staying with the injured.

When the Korean War ended in 1953, thousands of missing and dead American soldiers were left behind, as well as POWs, as U.S. forces retreated from North Korea. Not all the missing and dead were returned after the truce and there was strong evidence some POWs were not handed over. Today the Pentagon is still trying to retrieve remains through a process, currently stalled, of paying North Koreans to support field excavations.

The Pentagon agency primarily responsible for survival training for captured troops and for helping them back at home says the mission of bringing them back is "truly and uniquely an indelible part of the American way."


Never negotiate with terrorists or hostage-takers? Not quite never.

The 9/11 attacks broke open the modern age of asymmetric warfare. Asymmetric dealmaking, diplomacy and national security went hand in hand with that. The old standards and slogans still had meaning but improvisation was required.

Prisoners taken in the fight against terrorism could not be considered prisoners of war in the U.S. government's estimation because branding them POWs might extend them rights they were not accorded at Guantanamo, never mind the now-discontinued CIA "black sites."

Ways were found to deal with those who don't fight by the rules. As in Bergdahl's case, where the government of Qatar served as go-between, intermediaries are usually involved to maintain a semblance of separation between two sides that aren't really supposed to be talking to each other.

Just months after the 2001 attacks, the U.S. dropped its straightforward ban on government involvement in ransom to hostage-takers, for example. The new policy created more wiggle room for the U.S. to facilitate ransom payments and to shape negotiations, however indirectly, with captors.

The policy provided cover for the U.S. to try to free terrorist-held missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham in the Philippines in 2002 but failed to achieve a peaceful transfer: Martin Burnham died in the eventual assault on the captors.

To be sure, unsavory and prohibited deal-making has a long history, too.

Ronald Reagan's presidency is stained by the Iran-contra scandal, in which Iran, designated a state sponsor of terrorism, was to be secretly sold U.S. arms in exchange for the release of hostages, with proceeds steered illegally to Nicaraguan rebels.

The ethos against granting concessions of any kind to scoundrels gave rise to a patriotic rallying cry a century ago in the time of President Teddy Roosevelt and a Moroccan plunderer who became known as the first terrorist of the 1900s.

After Ahmed ibn-Muhammed Raisuli took Greek-American businessman Ion Perdicaris hostage for money and political influence, the U.S. dispatched warships while Roosevelt's secretary of state demanded of Morocco's sultan: "Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead."

The effect of that ultimatum was electrifying at home and, days later, Perdicaris was free. But it turned out the U.S. had quietly pressed for Raisuli's ransom demands to be met, which they were.

The U.S. appeared to be wielding Roosevelt's big stick.

Actually it spoke softly to a terrorist.

News Guide: Races that will decide Senate control

News Guide: Races that will decide Senate control

News Guide: Races that will decide Senate control, Republicans will take control with a net gain of six Senate seats.

Among the 36 seats on the ballot, seven are held by Democrats in states won by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012.

A look at what's happening in six competitive Senate races where a change in party is possible, and where that change could help decide which party ends up leading the Senate during the next Congress.


On the Ballot: Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, an incumbent elected to her first term in 2008; Republican Thom Tillis, the North Carolina House speaker in his first run for statewide office.

In the Bank: Hagan may be one of the most vulnerable incumbent Democrats, but had raised roughly $11 million and was sitting on $8.6 million as of mid-April. Tillis has raised almost $3.3 million, including a $250,000 personal loan, and has just over $1 million in the bank.

On the Stump: Hagan recently has accused Tillis of denying the existence of climate change and she calls the regulation of greenhouse gases key to protecting the environment. Tillis says the question is whether humans are causing global warming and suggested Hagan and President Barack Obama are using "false science" to promote a "war on coal" that would damage the economy.

On the Air: Hagan ran a radio ad before the GOP primary May 6 reminding voters that Tillis approved severance pay for two former legislative aides who had inappropriate relationships with lobbyists. "Our tax dollars, bailing out the indiscretions of Thom Tillis' staff. Those may be values, but they're not North Carolina's," the ad said. Tillis responded by accusing Hagan and a political action committee supporting Senate Democrats of trying to interfere in the primary. "Don't be fooled by Harry Reid," the ad said. Reid, a Nevada Democrat, is the Senate majority leader.


On the Ballot: Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, an two-term incumbent first elected in 2002; U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, a freshman congressman from south Arkansas.

In the Bank: Pryor, the only Democrat in the state's congressional delegation, had raised nearly $6.9 million in his re-election bid and had more than $4.1 million in cash through April 30. Cotton, who launched his Senate bid last August, had raised nearly $5.4 million and had almost $2.4 million in the bank.

On the Stump: Last month, Pryor and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., toured an Arkansas community hit by a deadly tornado and criticized Cotton's vote against disaster aid for the Northeast following Superstorm Sandy. Cotton has focused on trying to tie Pryor to Obama, who is deeply unpopular in Arkansas.

On the Air: Pryor has spent the spring focusing on Medicare and Social Security, airing television spots that criticize Cotton for supporting changes to the programs that he argues would hurt older people. Cotton has aired ads aimed at introducing himself to the state, with his most recent spot featured the newlywed congressman's wife and their home in Dardanelle.


On the Ballot: Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, a former Anchorage mayor seeking his second term; Republicans Joe Miller, Dan Sullivan and Mead Treadwell are running in the state's August primary.

In the Bank: Begich had raised more than $4.6 million and had $2.8 million on hand at the end of March. Sullivan, who most recently served as Alaska's natural resources commissioner and is the best funded of the potential GOP challengers, had raised more than $2.6 million and held close to $2 million in the bank.

On the Stump: Sullivan and Treadwell spoken out last week against Obama's proposed greenhouse gas regulations, with Treadwell saying it was an attempt to impose a change on Alaskans without a full debate in Congress. Begich has recently opened field offices in the small towns of Bethel, Ketchikan and Dillingham, something he says shows an unprecedented commitment to the state's rural areas.

On the Air: Begich and Sullivan are talking to each other in their TV ads about each other's ads. In one, Begich says a steel plant featured in a Sullivan spot has more business because of his work as a senator; Begich then suggests other such places where Sullivan could shoot an ad. In a response, Sullivan replied "I'm not a career politician like Mark, but I thought I'd return the favor" and asks him to explain votes he says mostly line up with Obama's policies.


On the Ballot: Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, elected to his first term in 1984; Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Kentucky secretary of state, who is making her second run for statewide office.

In the Bank: McConnell, the longest-serving senator in Kentucky history and a prime target for Democrats this year, had raised close to $12 million through the end of April and was sitting on $10.1 million. Grimes had raised more than $8 million and had close to $4.9 million in the bank.

On the Stump: Obama's recent announcement of stricter standards for greenhouse gas emissions has given McConnell more ammunition in Kentucky, one of the nation's top coal producers. Grimes has also attacked the new rules and again tried to portray herself as independent of Obama, who has lost by a wide margin every time he has appeared on the ballot in Kentucky.

On the air: Grimes is running a TV ad aimed at military voters, an influential bloc of the electorate in a state that's home to Fort Knox and Fort Campbell. The ad promotes a Kentucky law, championed by Grimes, that allows military and other overseas citizens to register to vote online. McConnell's most recent ad featured U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., praising his credentials as a conservative.


On the Ballot: Democrat Michelle Nunn, an Atlanta nonprofit executive and daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn; Republican U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, from Savannah, and David Perdue, a former corporate CEO in his first bid for office, meet in a July 22 runoff.

In the bank: Nunn had hauled in $6.6 million through April 30 and had almost $3.7 million on hand, an impressive total for a first-time candidate and a reflection of the hopes of national Democrats that she can pull an upset. Going into the primary, Kingston had raised more than $5.6 million and had almost $1.3 million saved, while Perdue had taken in about $4.3 million, a figure that includes about $2.6 million of his personal fortune through loans and contributions.

On the Stump: Kingston has assembled a litany of endorsements from tea party figures and vanquished rivals Karen Handel and Phil Gingrey, arguing he is uniting the state's conservatives. Perdue tells voters at every stop the federal debt is the nation's biggest problem and any sitting member of Congress helped create it. Nunn, meanwhile, quietly continues a campaign built around community events and is treading lightly when asked about Obama's health care overhaul and the new greenhouse gas rules.

On the Air: After a busy primary on television, all three candidates are currently off the air.


On the Ballot: Democratic U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, a four-term congressman elected in 2006; Republican Joni Ernst, an Iowa state senator and Iraq war veteran making her first run for statewide office.

In the Bank: Braley was viewed as an early favorite to replace retiring Democratic U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin and had raised almost $5.9 million, with $2.3 million in the bank, as of mid-May. Ernst has raised almost $1.2 million, but was left with roughly $100,000 in her accounts after sailing through a five-way primary on June 3.

On the Stump: With no primary competition, Braley has been reaching out to general election voters for more than a year, promoting support for minimum wage increase and recommending fixes to the Affordable Care Act. Ernst has been short on specific proposals, focusing her rhetoric on attacking Obama and Braley. She has taken to referring to the health care bill as "Bruce Braley's Obamacare."

On the Air: Ernst has already run the campaign ad of the year, in which she talked about her background castrating hogs on the farm as proof she would cut federal spending. In his first ad after the primary, Braley attacked Ernst for failing to write any legislation to cut spending in Iowa following her election to the state Senate in 2010.

Bergdahl says he was tortured by Taliban captors

Bergdahl says he was tortured by Taliban captors

Bergdahl says he was tortured by Taliban captors, The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss what Bergdahl has revealed about the conditions of his captivity. The New York Times first reported on the matter.

The official said it was difficult to verify the accounts Bergdahl has given since his release a week ago.

Bergdahl, now 28, was captured in June 2009 after he disappeared from his infantry unit. He was held for nearly five years by Taliban militants.

Military doctors at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center say that while Bergdahl is physically able to travel he's not yet emotionally prepared to be reunited with his family. He has not yet spoken to his family.

It's unclear when he may get to go home.

Typically, a returned captive would spend from five days to three weeks in the phase of reintegration in which Bergdahl now finds himself, according to a Pentagon psychologist who is an expert in dealing with military members who have been released from captivity said this past week. The psychologist spoke to reporters Thursday on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the Pentagon.

Once Bergdahl is considered ready to move on to the next phase of his decompression, he is expected to be flown to an Army medical center in San Antonio, where it is believed he will be reunited with his family.

Bergdahl was returned to the U.S. military in exchange for the release of five Taliban militants from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"It would have been offensive and incomprehensible to consciously leave an American behind, no matter what," Secretary of State John Kerry said.

Qatar, a tiny Gulf state, served as a go-between during the negotiations, and has ongoing role in ensuring the five released prisoners remain there for at least a year, under a memo of understanding with the U.S.

The Qataris aren't "the only ones keeping an on eye on them," Kerry said in an interview broadcast Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."

He said the U.S. has confidence in the restrictions imposed on the former detainees, as a condition of their release.

"I am not telling you that they don't have some ability at some point to go back and get involved" in the terrorism fight against the United States, Kerry said.

"But they also have an ability to get killed doing that, and I don't think anybody should doubt the capacity of the United States of America to protect Americans. ... So these guys pick a fight with us in the future or now or at any time at enormous risk," Kerry said.

The deal, which the Obama White House brokered without consulting Congress, ignited a political firestorm that shows no signs of abating.

Lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, who initially praised Bergdahl's release, backed off amid questions about whether he was a deserter who walked away from his post and an outcry over the exchange.

Some of Bergdahl's fellow soldiers maintain that Americans died during efforts to find and save him. Also, there is great concern that the high-level Taliban officials will resume activities with the Taliban.

U.S. Sen. John McCain, who was held prisoner during the Vietnam War, agreed with Kerry that the U.S. should do all it can to win the release of any American being held, "but not at the expense of the lives or well-being of their fellow servicemen and women."

He told CNN that "when we join the military, we know we take certain risks, and among those risks are wounding, death, imprisonment."

On Wednesday, Bergdahl's hometown of Hailey, Idaho, abruptly canceled plans for a welcome-home celebration, citing security concerns. And on Saturday the FBI said Bergdahl's family had received threats that are being investigated by federal, state and local authorities.

The U.S. official told the AP that Bergdahl's parents were being harassed and threatened, including death threats.

Maria Sharapova wins French Open after three-set Simona Halep battle

Maria Sharapova wins French Open after three-set Simona Halep battle

Maria Sharapova wins French Open after three-set Simona Halep battle, People do not come to see beautiful tennis when Maria Sharapova plays.

They come to see a woman who is undeniably beautiful suffer for her art. Nobody does it so loudly or passionately. Few do it so efficiently. And, in winning her second French Open title, the Russian played as cold-bloodedly as she has ever done in resisting the worthy challenge of young Simona Halep in three gripping sets.

Halep is the first Romanian to reach a slam final since her manager, Virginia Ruzici, lost to Chris Evert here 34 years ago, and the tears welled when the crowd stood to acclaim her fighting performance with chants of “Si-mo-na!” at the end.

But the day belonged to her conqueror, and Halep, the world No3, knew she would get no accommodation of sentiment from Sharapova, who won 6-4, 6-7, 6-4, to add the 2014 trophy to the one she lifted two years ago and maybe erase some of the pain she felt when beaten by Serena Williams last year.

After what sounded like a rendition of the entire Russian national anthem, Sharapova said: “You’ve had an unbelievable two weeks, Simona. Congratulations. I’m so emotional right now I don’t know what language to speak, English, French, Russian. But to be able to have the chance to stand on this stage on two occasions is incredible for me.”

It was a lovely speech after a brutal final. On that mythical scale of who would you trust to fight for your life in a game of tennis, Sharapova would rank very highly – ahead of Fabio Fognini, say. But not on her serve. And, sure enough, in the very first game the Russian slammed down her 32nd double fault of the tournament to go four clear of the field before adding 11 more over the next three hours.

Yet she prevailed, winning the last eight points of the match after flirting with disaster because of her unreliable serve. She is a marvel.

Sharapova does most of the sport’s tasks very well, but none to the level of dominance that, say, Williams achieves across the board. The bedrock of her game is her iron will. To call on it, she goes through her rituals – stepping over the white lines, turning her back on her opponent’s serve – to the point of irritation (she was belatedly and correctly docked a point for slow serving at the start of the third set, having already spent an eternity in the locker room during the break).

She cares not. She is in another world, except it is one she shares with her adoring public, every grimace and fist pump monitoring her fluctuating emotions.

Enough of those free points on her shaky serve arrived at key moments to make a difference but not quite enough. One game, the ninth in the second set, summed up her doggedness, when withering ground strokes that even the quick-witted, slick Halep could not reach cancelled out three double faults. She did the same to stop a streak of six straight breaks between them for 2-2 in the third.

Rafael Nadal told John McEnroe before the match he thought Halep would win if she could control her nerves; he made no mention of Sharapova’s mental strength because it is renowned throughout the game. Yet it was the four-times winner of a grand slam event whose racket hand was shaking in the early exchanges and various other key points.

Halep, 22, really does look at home on the big stage, a well-prepared athlete with excellent foot speed, good anticipation and the ease of execution familiar to all champions. She rarely looks off balance, even on the few occasions when she is sent the wrong way (as when she slipped and recovered at advantage point in the fifth game of the first set). It is a precious gift.

There was no hint of the suggested stage fright, either. After mis-hitting an early forehand, she nonchalantly twirled her racket, one-handed, like a gunslinger reholstering a smoking six gun. It screamed composure, which sometimes had been missing from her game earlier in the tournament.

Sharapova’s had been a more arduous path to the final, her six wins taking 10 hours, three-and-a-half hours longer than Halep needed, but the Russian was energised by the glint of sunlight on the trophy. In the absence of Williams, whom she simply cannot beat, she knew she probably would not have a better chance to succeed her as French champion.

Since she beat Sara Errani here in 2012, Sharapova has had a golden run, losing only to Williams and Ana Ivanovic on clay.

As they went deeper into the contest, however, the feeling grew that, if Halep could force a third set, she might have the besting of Sharapova – and the fierceness in her shots suggested Sharapova thought so too. Although she had won three three-setters in a row to get here, she wanted to get this kid out of here.

They got to a tiebreak, where Halep held her nerve in the shootout and the stadium roared for the extra entertainment.

There was nothing much in it until the 35th minute of the final set, when Sharapova, defending frantically, broke for 3-2. Halep, for the first time, looked vulnerable. The Sharapova points began to flow. The prospect of victory added zest to her every move and stroke. Then Halep, seemingly spent, dug deep to break back for 4-4, aided by another two double faults.

But Sharapova countered in a twinkling, breaking to love, then closed it out without mercy. It was a great final – and it won’t be Halep’s last. “This one will be special for me all my life,” she said in her brilliantly simple way.

Charles Manson 'Granted Parole' Declared a Hoax

Charles Manson 'Granted Parole' Declared a Hoax

Charles Manson 'Granted Parole' Declared a Hoax, An article claiming that Charles Manson has been granted parole has turned out to be a hoax.

The fake story started on the website Empire News, a self-described satirical website.

The bogus report read: "One of the most famous killers in the American prison system will be walking free. On Tuesday Charles Manson, who is now 79 years old, was granted parole by the California Board of Parole and authorized by California Governor Jerry Brown."

"According to California Board of Parole Hearings Commissioner John Peck, prison overcrowding forced the prison board to re-evaluate prisoners that are elderly or those with serious illnesses. In February a panel of federal judges ordered California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) two more years to reduce chronic prison overcrowding that has cost the state billions of dollars."

The hoax story quickly spread on Facebook and Twitter and many users took to social media to share the news.The 79-year-old California cult leader is infamous for leading a murderous spree in 1969. He was denied parole for the 12th time in 2012.

Manson is serving a life sentence for orchestrating seven murders in Los Angeles, committed by a cult he formed known as the Family. Manson, an ex-convict and budding musician, directed his followers to commit a series of slayings of high-profile people. Among their victims was actress Sharon Tate, wife of director Roman Polanski. She was eight months' pregnant when murdered.

Shailene Woodley from World Saviour to Weepy Heroine

Shailene Woodley from World Saviour to Weepy Heroine

Shailene Woodley from World Saviour to Weepy Heroine, Shailene Woodley is a seasoned actress at the age of 22 and in this year alone, she has gone from world saviour to heroine in a young adult “weepy” film. In The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, Woodley plays a 16 year-old cancer patient who discovers love with another cancer victim, played by 20 year-old Ansel Elgort.

The two have worked together before, but as brother and sister in the film Divergent. While the two actors had a wonderful on-screen chemistry as siblings, it remained to be seen if they could carry off being young love interests. Watching the trailer to The Fault in Our Stars, however, it looks like the two were perfect pairing as the teen cancer patients who fall in love.

Woodley, who has been referred to as “the hippy who conquered Hollywood,” loved the book by Green since it’s publication in 2012. She was so enthusiastic that she wrote a 40 page letter to the novelist where she made a very long case for the book to be made into a film. Shailene says that she was not applying for the part of the book’s female protagonist Hazel Grace, but Green has gone on record to say it certainly felt like she was campaigning for the part.

Before being made into a film, the book which was aimed at the young adult market, had garnered a lot of praise. Not least of which was from Time magazine who named the book best of the year. Green’s work also stayed on The New York Times Young Adult bestseller list for 78 weeks.

Shailene Woodley, fell in love with the character and after playing world saviour in Divergent wanted to play the “heroine” in this weepy movie. It is easy to see why. The actress is not afraid to go her own way and disregard societal rules and preconceptions. She has said that she wants people to rethink what female leads can look like, stating that people never see a woman on a film poster with a “cannula in her nose.”

Thus far the film, which opened on June 2, has garnered a lot of praise. Most reviewers have felt that the two young actors have done a brilliant job. Only one felt that Elgort’s character seemed too good to be true and at least one applauded the director, Josh Boone for following the direction of the book. Another, from Vanity Fair felt that Woodley looked too good for a cancer patient as she exuded a “California sunset” glow.

At first glance from all who those who have sung the film’s praises, it seems that it is not a “run of the mill” manufactured tissue fest. The on-screen chemistry between Woodley and Elgort apparently lights up the screen and one enthusiastic reviewer has predicted that Ansel will become the next Robert Pattinson. Which means, presumably, that Shailene could be the next Kristen Stewart, which is unfair to the female star of this film.

Shailene Woodley can pull off playing the saviour of the world and be the heroine of a young adult weepy love story. The Fault in Our Stars aims to be more than the average teen targeted film and apparently it has succeeded admirably. It is hard to imagine that anyone other than Woodley could have pulled it off so well unless, of course, the actress that she is so often compared with, Jennifer Lawrence had been cast instead.

Nicki Minaj planning beach wedding

Nicki Minaj planning beach wedding

Nicki Minaj planning beach wedding, London: Rapper Nicki Minaj would like to get married on a beach. The `Starships` hitmaker, who has recently sparked rumours she is engaged to her boyfriend of 10 years Safaree Samuels, said she has already starting planning her big day and has an ideal location in mind, reportedly.

"I`d want it to be on a beach somewhere, like Turks and Caicos," she said. The 31-year-old rapper has also already lined up her dresses for her big day and is adamant she will have at least three wardrobe changes throughout the romantic event.

"I`m gonna have 10 (dresses)... OK, maybe more like three -- a big princess dress, something short I can dance in at the party and then an Alexander McQueen gown that`s sexy and figure-hugging," she added.

'30 Rock' star Tracy Morgan in intensive care after crash

'30 Rock' star Tracy Morgan in intensive care after crash

'30 Rock' star Tracy Morgan in intensive care after crash, Police said the vehicle carrying the 45-year-old former Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock cast member and six others was involved in a six-vehicle accident on the New Jersey Turnpike, near Cranbury Township, at about 1am.

A spokesman at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Centre in New Brunswick, New Jersey, said he is in a critical condition.

Police said one person riding in the vehicle with Morgan was killed.

Two tractor-trailers, a sports utility vehicle and two cars, along with Morgan's limo bus, were involved in the accident.

The 45-year-old joined Saturday Night Live in 1996 and was on the sketch-comedy programme for seven years before leaving to star in The Tracy Morgan Show in 2003.

Taye Diggs Says Studios Set Double Standard for Black Films

Taye Diggs Says Studios Set Double Standard for Black Films

Taye Diggs Says Studios Set Double Standard for Black Films,  Actor Taye Diggs says Hollywood studios hold African-American films to a frustratingly separate and unfair standard.

Whether a studio decides to proceed with a black-oriented film can depend on the success of other movies with primarily African-American casts, even if the projects are unconnected, said Diggs, who starred in “The Best Man” romantic comedy and its sequel.

In a recent interview, the actor said he and others who worked on the Best Man movies are eager to start on a third. But its fate is tied to how other black-oriented films, including the upcoming Think Like a Man Too, perform at the box office, he said.

"Unfortunately, the business is such that as far as studios are concerned, they judge one quote-unquote black movie on how other ‘black’ movies have done, even if they have nothing to do with each other," he said.

That’s “ridiculously” frustrating, said Diggs, 43, whose movie credits include How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Rent. He stars in a new TNT drama, Murder in the First.

"We’ve definitely come a long way. But we’ve got a long way to go," he said. "It’s too bad we can’t do well on our own merit when it comes to the studios. They don’t like to take risks and, unfortunately, we’re still considered a huge risk, even though I don’t think we are."

The Best Man Holiday grossed more than $70 million in North America last year and was profitable, said Paul Dergarabedian, senior analyst for box-office tracker Rentrak.

Universal Studios, which released 1999’s The Best Man and its sequel that included stars Diggs, Morris Chestnut and Sanaa Lathan, declined comment.

Asteroid near earth

Asteroid near earth

Asteroid near earth, California: A 1,000-feet wide "beast" at a speed of 50,400 km per hour - that could wipe out an entire city - will come within a range of a million miles of earth on Sunday. The asteroid will, however, safely pass earth from a distance of 1.25 million kms - more than three times farther away than our moon.

Nicknamed the "Beast," the mighty rock may have caused an explosion measured in megatons and wipe out a city if it were to hit earth, NASA scientists said.

Designated "2014 HQ124", the asteroid was discovered on April 23, 2014, by NASA's NEOWISE mission, a space telescope adapted for scouting the skies for asteroids and comets. "2014 HQ124" is designated a "potentially hazardous asteroid" (PHA) by NASA.

There are currently 1,484 known PHAs but none pose a significant near-term risk of impacting earth.

"There is zero chance of an impact," said Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's near-earth object program office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "In fact, it's fairly common for asteroids to pass near Earth. You'd expect an object about the size of 2014 HQ124 to pass this close every few years."

Yeomans said that 2014 HQ124 is a good target for radar observations using NASA's Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California, and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, shortly after the closest approach on June 8. Radar measurements of asteroid distances and velocities often enable computation of asteroid orbits much further into the future than otherwise known.

NASA detects, tracks and characterises asteroids and comets passing close to Earth using both ground - and space-based telescopes.

The Near-Earth Object Program, commonly called "Spaceguard," discovers these objects, characterises a subset of them and identifies their orbits to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet. To date, US assets have discovered more than 98 per cent of the known near-Earth objects.

Quin Snyder to Utah Jazz: Latest Contract Details, Analysis and Reaction

Quin Snyder to Utah Jazz: Latest Contract Details, Analysis and Reaction

Quin Snyder to Utah Jazz: Latest Contract Details, Analysis and Reaction, The Utah Jazz have hired Quin Snyder as their new head coach.

Utah confirmed the deal via its Twitter account on Friday:Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski originally reported that Snyder and Utah agreed to a three-year deal, with a team option for a fourth.

Wojnarowski notes when Snyder will be introduced.The opportunity to join the Utah Jazz and to be part of such a highly respected franchise with an incredibly bright future is a great honor,” Snyder said. “I approach this opportunity with gratitude and humility and am committed to doing everything I can to help the Jazz become a championship-caliber team.”

Mike Budenholzer, Snyder's former boss in Atlanta also commented on Utah's hire via a statement released on the Hawks' Twitter account:

Snyder just finished up his first season as an assistant coach with the Atlanta Hawks. He's best known for coaching the Missouri Tigers from 1999-2006. He left the Tigers amid scandal but has since reformed his reputation in the years since.

After his departure from Missouri, he's taken a circuitous route through various levels of the basketball landscape with roles in both the United States and Russia, per basketball writer Jared Dubin.

Now that Snyder is reportedly on board, the Jazz are already trying to fill out the rest of his coaching staff.

Jody Genessy of Deseret News reported that Utah assistant coaches Brad Jones and Alex Jensen would be taking over increased roles on the sideline.

Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune confirmed that Jones will be a part of Snyder's staff.The Jazz are in a complete rebuild, so it makes sense that they would take a gamble on a younger coach who doesn't have any head coaching experience in the NBA.

Former NBA head coach and current ESPN analyst Doug Collins gave a ringing endorsement of Snyder a few years ago, per Zillgitt.

Utah is coming off a 25-57 regular season, which was the worst record in the Western Conference. However, the Jazz are putting together a young core of stars, and with the fifth overall pick in the 2014 draft, they have an opportunity to provide Snyder with another promising prospect to propel the franchise forward.

Although the West is loaded, the Phoenix Suns proved that a young team and a rookie head coach can make a serious push for the playoffs. They went from worst in the conference in 2012-13 to missing out on the postseason by one game this past year.

The playoffs are likely a bridge too far for Utah, but there's no reason to think that the Jazz can't at least take a massive step forward in the 2014-15 regular season.

Tracy Morgan in Intensive Care After Accident

Tracy Morgan in Intensive Care After Accident

Tracy Morgan in Intensive Care After Accident, Actor and comedian Tracy Morgan, best known for his roles on "Saturday Night Live" and "30 Rock," was critically injured when his limo bus overturned in a multi-vehicle crash in New Jersey early on Saturday morning, police said.

Morgan, 45, was taken by helicopter to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Center in New Brunswick, New Jersey, in critical condition and was in intensive care, said Gregory Williams, a state police spokesman.

Another passenger on the limo bus was killed in the accident on the New Jersey Turnpike involving the bus, two tractor-trailers, a sports utility vehicle and two other vehicles. The accident occurred at around 1 a.m. on Saturday morning near Cranberry Township, Williams said.

Six other people besides Morgan were injured, Williams said.

Morgan remained in critical condition late on Saturday morning, his spokesman said.

"His family is now with him and he is receiving excellent care," spokesman Lewis Kay said in a statement. "We don’t anticipate much of a change in his condition today."

Several of Morgan's celebrity friends, including comedians George Lopez and Andy Richter, posted messages of support on Twitter on Saturday.

"Stay strong Tracy Morgan," the hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons wrote in a message. "We love you."


Morgan was on the road for his "Turn it Funny" stand-up comedy tour. At the time of the crash he was returning from a performance at a casino in Dover, Delaware, on Friday night, his spokesman said. He had been due to appear on Saturday in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Morgan is one of best known black comedians in the United States, shooting to fame with roles on "Saturday Night Live" that often poked fun at racial prejudices.

The comedian, a native of New York City, spent seven years on SNL before leaving the cast in 2003. He went on to star in the sitcom "30 Rock" for seven seasons, playing an unhinged, reckless comedian called Tracy Jordan in a network television satire that caricatured his SNL days.

"30 Rock" also skewered Morgan's sometimes inflammatory stand-up routine - on more than one occasion he has publicly apologized for making jokes about gay and disabled people.

Morgan, a diabetic, had a kidney transplant in 2010.

Peter Haigney, a spokesman at the hospital where Morgan was being treated, said the hospital was treating a total of four people from the accident, three of them in critical condition.

He gave no other details and referred queries about Morgan to the actor's publicist.

Police said they were still investigating the crash, and whether alcohol was involved.

Cindy crawford shares kid pic

Cindy crawford shares kid pic

Cindy crawford shares kid pic, Just like mom! Cindy Crawford shared an adorable Instagram photo of her two kids mocking her signature model pout on June 5.

In the photo, her son Presley, 15, and daughter Kaia, 13, sit together on a chair and look intensely into the camera, their features perfectly mirroring their mom's.

The world-famous supermodel, 48, captioned the pic of her genetically gifted children: "Just hangin out with @kaiajordan and @presley_gerber.

Rande Gerber wife's has been busy as of late, offering her congratulations to good friend George Clooney and his fiancee, Amal Alamuddin.

The couples were spotted out together in Malibu at Gerber's restaurant Cafe Habana to celebrate the 53-year-old's recent engagement last month.

Indian girl 13 climbs everest

Indian girl 13 climbs everest

Indian girl 13 climbs everest, Re: “ ‘Joyful tears’ on Everest” (Gazette, June 5) I feel truly proud of Malavath Poorna, who in spite of belonging to the Dalit caste of lowly untouchables, was able to make it to the top of Mount Everest.

This 13-year-old daughter of poor Indian farmers became the youngest girl to climb Mount Everest. It is reported that she shed joyful tears at the summit, after a gruelling climb across difficult terrain.

Kudos to young, brave, untouchable Indian girl! She is a model of courage for the whole humanity.

Bodies found in suitcases wisconsin

Bodies found in suitcases wisconsin

Bodies found in suitcases wisconsin, Two suitcases abandoned on the side of a Wisconsin contained two dead bodies, police said.

County employees were mowing grass along a Geneva road Thursday when they stumbled upon two suitcases in a ditch, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported.

They moved the bags so they could finish the lawn job. A passerby called police to report the mysterious roadside bags a few hours later.

When officers opened them up, they found a body in each one.

Officials are performing autopsies, but DNA tests could take weeks, TMJ reported. Investigators are working to determine when and how the people died and their identities.

There are no outstanding missing person reports in the town, Police Chief Steve Hurley told the TV station.

"The citizens of the Town of Geneva can rest assured that this is an isolated incident, and the crime did not occur where the bodies were located," Hurley said in a press conference.

800 babies in septic tank

800 babies in septic tank

800 babies in septic tank, In 1975 two young boys broke open a concrete slab while playing in Tuam, county Galway and uncovered an old septic tank filled with hundreds of small skeletons - a priest said prayers at the site and it was resealed.

This week it was revealed that the site contained the remains of hundreds of children who died in the care of Bon Secours nuns between 1925 and 1961 and was not a famine grave as originally claims in the 70s.

The babies are believed to have been secretly buried at the home for unwed mothers, dubbed "fallen women", which had an extraordinarily high infant mortality rates - with children dying of TB, pneumonia, measles and gastorenteritis.

There was just one child who was buried in a family plot in the graveyard in Tuam. That's how I am certain there are 796 children in the mass grave
Catherine Corless
A report from the institution in 1944 revealed emaciated childen, mothers suffering with mental health issues and overcrowding.

The Bon Secours sisters, a Roman Catholic organisation, began providing healthcare in Ireland in the 19th century and is now the country's largest private healthcare provider.

The sisters said they were shocked and saddened by the reports, they ran 10 similar homes across Ireland and three of the others are believed to have plots with the remains of 3,200 babies and infants.

The story was revealed by the Irish Daily Mail, who were alerted by local historian Catherine Corless that her research had revealed 796 children were in the mass grave.

She told the paper; "There was just one child who was buried in a family plot in the graveyard in Tuam. That's how I am certain there are 796 children in the mass grave.

"These girls were run out of their family home and never taken back, so why would they take the babies back to bury them, either?"

Irish authorities have been slow to react, despite the scandal spreading across social media under the hashtag #800babies and the story being picked up across the globe.

Police say there is no criminal investigation at present as there is no evidence of a crime taking place, but speaking from a US trade mission Taoiseach (PM) Enda Kenny said he will loko into whether it was an isolated incident.

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin called for religious orders to release all details they might hold on the people taken in.

Slavery, abuse and shame

The case follows a series of scandals over abuse at institutions entrusted to the Catholic church in Ireland.

The Artane Industrial school case revealed how Christian brothers systematically neglected and abused orphans and boys from single parent families put into "state care" for decades.

Magdalen asylums, known as Magdalene laundries, ran in Ireland until 1996 with as many as 30,000 "fallen women" incarcerated, stripped of their identities and forced to carry out forced labour.

Women were locked up in abusive laundries for being sexually active outside marriage, having "illegitimate children" and some simply to safeguard their "moral purity".

The Irish authorities must look into possible allegations of ill-treatment of women and children in other so-called 'mother and baby homes'.

John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International

A 2009 Child Abuse Commission drew testimony from 2000 people who attended Catholic-run school in Ireland from the 1930s until the 1990s.

It found the entire system had treated children as prisoners and slaves, ignoring their rights and noted that some religious officials had encouraged ritual beatings - while protecting their own with a culture of secrecy.

Amnesty International joined calls for an urgent investigation with John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Director, warning; ""The Irish Government must not view this and other cases as merely historic and beyond its human rights obligations".

"The Irish authorities must look into possible allegations of ill-treatment of women and children in other so-called 'mother and baby homes' and other institutions run by the state or religious authorities".

Funds are being raised for an official memorial to be erected and calls have been made for a judicial investigation into the deaths.

Actress Mona Freeman Dies at 87

Actress Mona Freeman Dies at 87

Actress Mona Freeman Dies at 87, She played teens in such 1940s and '50s films as "The Heiress," "Junior Miss," "That Brennan Girl," "Dear Ruth" and "I Was a Shoplifter."

Actress Mona Freeman, cast as a perpetual teenager throughout the 1940s and '50s in such films as The Heiress, Junior Miss, Dear Ruth and I Was a Shoplifter, has died. She was 87.

Freeman died May 23 in her Beverly Hills home after a long illness, her daughter, actress Monie Ellis, told the Los Angeles Times.

Freeman also was a painter, whose portrait of Mary See has been displayed for years in See's Candies stores across the U.S.

Freeman played Marian Almond, the cousin of Olivia de Havilland's character who gets engaged in William Wyler's acclaimed film The Heiress (1949). In Junior Miss (1945), she starred as 13-year-old Lois Graves, who with her older sister (Peggy Ann Garner) meddle in people's love lives. And she portrayed Ziggy, who learns some terrible habits from her mother in That Brennan Girl (1946).

Freeman also starred as Miriam Wilkins, a teen who has a pen-pal romance with a soldier (William Holden) during World War II but signs her older sister's name to the letters, in Dear Ruth (1947). She then reprised the role in Dear Wife (1949) and Dear Brat (1951).

The blonde and youthful Freeman also appeared in such films as Till We Meet and Again Together Again, both released in 1944; the musical Mother Wore Tights (1947), as the daughter of Betty Grable's character; Streets of Laredo (1949), opposite Holden and Macdonald Carey; I Was a Shoplifter (1950), as a petty thief and daughter of a judge; and Otto Preminger's Angel Face (1952).

Her TV work included episodes of Maverick, Perry Mason, Wagon Train, The Millionaire and Branded. Her final onscreen credit came in the 1972 telefilm Welcome Home, Johnny Bristol.

Always cast as a bobbysoxer even as she approached age 30, Freeman became bored with acting and turned to portrait painting.

Born in Baltimore, Freeman worked as a teenage model in New York City and was named "Miss Subways" in 1941, the first one picked. She was signed to her first movie contract by RKO's Howard Hughes.

In addition to Ellis -- who starred as Gidget in the 1972 TV movie Gidget Gets Married -- survivors include six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Penelope cruz short hair

Penelope cruz short hair

Penelope cruz short hair, Penelope Cruz was almost unrecognizable when preparing to film her scene for new movie "Ma Ma" in Madrid. The Spanish star was pictured on the set channeling her inner tomboy, hiding her long luscious hair under a short wig and wearing a baggy plaid shirt.

Coming from Spanish director Julio Medem ("Sex and Lucia", "Room in Rome"), the film follows Magda, a woman who reacts valiantly to tragedy. "She and those in her intimate circle will live unsuspected scenes of humor and of delicate happiness," a press release read.

The wife of actor Javier Bardem also serves as one of the producers. It marks her first lead role in a Spanish-language film in five years and her first ever as a producer. She said of her involvement behind the scenes, "I want to build what could be my future in cinema, not always being in front of the camera.

I'd also like to direct a feature, maybe 10 years from now. For now, I'm directing commercial and video-clips; I love that. And it's the best way to learn. I want to go slowly, step by step. I'm following the whole production process very closely, from the film's inception."

Texas newlyweds crash

Texas newlyweds crash

Texas newlyweds crash, A heartbreaking crash took the lives of two Texas newlyweds after they smashed head-on into each other as they drove in separate cars near their workplace, police said.

Cristina Munoz, 26, was driving her 1999 Saturn north when it drifted across the unmarked, paved County Road 87 and smashed into 31-year-old Nicolas Cruz’s 1990 Mazda pickup, killing them both, police told the Times Record News.

Both were employed at the Mahard Pullet Farm and were driving in separate cars between two different buildings used by the business, the News reported.

The Chillicothe couple likely both drove to work because of different shift schedules and the need to use their vehicles during work hours, Department of Public Safety Trooper Jymie Ha told the newspaper.

Rescuers needed special tools to extricate the young dead couple from their mangled vehicles after the 10 a.m. Wednesday wreck near Odell, police said.

“It appears speed and the layout of the road, including a hill crest, are going to be factors in the cause of the accident,” Ha told the Times Record News.

The couple had three young children.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Texas GOP advances 'reparative therapy' for gays

Texas GOP advances 'reparative therapy' for gays

Texas GOP advances 'reparative therapy' for gays, A push to include the new anti-gay language survived a key vote late Thursday in Fort Worth at the Texas Republican Convention where, across the street, tea party star U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz fired up attendees at a rally to defend marriage as between a man and a woman.

Under the new proposed plank, the Texas GOP will "recognize the legitimacy and efficacy of counseling, which offers reparative therapy and treatment for those patients seeking healing and wholeness from their homosexual lifestyle."

The full convention of nearly 10,000 delegates from across Texas will take a final vote on the platform Saturday.

Gay conservatives in Texas could still emerge with a rare victory on a separate issue: removing decades-old platform language that states, "Homosexuality tears at the fabric of society." Stripping that phrasing survived a sometimes-tense challenge from hardliners who not only wanted to preserve it, but wanted to replace "homosexuality" with "sexual sins."

"I really beg my social conservative colleagues to let this issue go," said Rudy Oeftering, a Dallas businessman and vice president of the gay Republican group Metroplex Republicans. "It's your opinion. It's your belief — but it's my life."

That issue also faces a full vote Saturday.

The Texas Republican Convention has long been unfriendly territory for gays, even conservative ones. For years, the party has refused to let gay GOP organizations rent booths in the convention hall.

The therapy language was inserted at the urging of Cathie Adams of Dallas, leader of the influential tea party group Texas Eagle Forum and a onetime chairwoman of the Texas Republican Party.

Adams, whose group backed tea party outsiders who dominated Texas Republican primary races this year, said she simply promoted language proposed by a man who she says was helped by such therapy.

"He knows what he's talking about. He is one of those who has benefited," Adams said. "I think the majority of Texans feel that way too. It's not like this is mandatory. This is only a voluntary program."

In August, New Jersey became the second U.S. state to ban licensed therapists from trying to turn gay teenagers straight. The bill was signed by Republican Gov. Chris Christie, a possible 2016 presidential candidate who opposes same-sex marriage but has said that he believes people are born gay and that homosexuality isn't a sin.

Judges on a federal appeals court also upheld a similar ban in California last fall, saying that trying to change a minor's sexual orientation through intense therapy appeared dangerous. The California Legislature has cited reports, experts and anecdotes involving suicides, substance abuse and other behavior by young recipients of the therapy.

Cruz ducked a question about his state party's platform on gays, saying he would leave it up to the "grass roots at the convention."

Republican delegate Elizabeth Hunter, 20, said she didn't see any reason for removing language that describes being gay as tearing at the fabric of society.

"I don't see anybody leaving the Republican Party because of that language," she said. "I think it would actually encourage someone to join when they see that the Republican Party takes a strong stand rather than standing in the middle."

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