November 13, 2014

 

By MARYCLAIRE DALE 

Associated Press

 

 

A man accused of abducting a Philadelphia woman and a Virginia teen has appeared in court on federal kidnapping charges.

 

Delvin Barnes was appointed a public defender during an appearance before a federal magistrate Wed­nesday afternoon in Phila­delphia. He’s scheduled to return to court November 14 for a bail hearing.

 

The 37-year-old from Charles City County, Virginia, has been in custody since his capture last week. Police searching for the 22-year-old woman abducted near a Philadelphia bus stop found Barnes and the woman in his car in Jessup, Maryland, three days later.

 

Federal prosecutors will try Barnes in the Philadelphia case before he's turned over to Virginia authorities.

 

He’s charged with attempted murder in the abduction of the Richmond teen. Police say she broke free as he was digging her grave. Barnes allegedly hit the girl in the head with a shovel, stuffed her in a trunk and took her to a mobile home, where he doused her in bleach and gasoline before she escaped.

 

Police searching for a 22-year-old woman abducted near a Philadelphia bus stop found Barnes and the victim in his car in Jessup, Maryland, three days later.

 

Police in Virginia said they have interviewed him at length about the case. They said he did not ask for a lawyer.

 

The Philadelphia victim, Carlesha Freeland-Gaither, had gotten off a bus on a Sunday night when she was grabbed off the street. A witness said she kicked out the rear window as she fought with her attacker.

 

Federal investigators used a GPS device placed in Barnes’ car by a used car dealer to help locate the vehicle and rescue Freeland-Gaither.

 

Barnes was released from prison a year ago after serving eight years for choking his estranged wife and assaulting her parents in Philadelphia.

 

Category: News

November 13, 2014

 

By Freddie Allen

NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent

 

In what may be the first test of the GOP-controlled, United States Senate’s willingness to work with the White House, President Barack Obama nominated United States Attorney Loretta Lynch to succeed Eric Holder as the next attorney general.

 

If confirmed, Lynch would become the first Black woman to serve as Attorney General.

 

During a ceremony in the Roosevelt Room at the White House, President Obama said that he couldn’t be prouder of Attorney General Eric Holder and that “our nation is safer and freer, and more Americans – regardless of race or religion, or gender or creed, or sexual orientation or disability -– receive fair and equal treatment under the law.”

 

Praising his new nominee, President Obama continued: “It’s pretty hard to be more qualified for this job than Loretta.  Throughout her 30-year career, she has distinguished herself as tough, as fair, an independent lawyer who has twice headed one of the most prominent U.S. Attorney’s offices in the country.  She has spent years in the trenches as a prosecutor, aggressively fighting terrorism, financial fraud, cybercrime, all while vigorously defending civil rights.”

 

Lynch earned degrees from Harvard University and Harvard Law School and served as a United States Attorney of New York under President Bill Clinton a position she returned to during the Obama Administration.

 

“She has boldly gone after public corruption, bringing charges against public officials in both parties,” said President Obama. “She’s helped secure billions in settlements from some of the world’s biggest banks accused of fraud, and jailed some of New York’s most violent and notorious mobsters and gang members.”

 

President Obama said that one of Lynch’s proudest achievements was the civil rights prosecution of the New York City police officers involved in the brutal assault of the Haitian immigrant Abner Louima.

 

After police busted up a fight outside of a nightclub and arrested Louima, Justin Volpe, a White police officer, sodomized the Haitian immigrant with a broomstick in a New York City police precinct. Volpe pled guilty to a number of charges associated with the 1997 attack and is currently serving 30 years. The city awarded Louima nearly $9 million in a settlement. Lynch was credited for working behind the scenes and navigating the city’s prosecution of the racially charged case.

 

In 2013, Holder asked Lynch to chair the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee and recognized Lynch and her staff for being instrumental in implementing the Justice Department’s “Smart on Crime” initiative.

 

“Throughout her career, and especially during her tenure as United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York – during both the Clinton and Obama Administrations – Loretta has earned the trust and respect of Justice Department employees at every level, in Washington and throughout the country,” said Holder.  “She is held in high regard by criminal justice, law enforcement, and civil rights leaders of all stripes. And from her time as a career attorney, prosecuting high-profile public corruption cases, to her leadership of sensitive financial fraud and national security investigations, she has proven her unwavering fidelity to the law – and her steadfast dedication to protecting the American people.”

 

Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network, a civil rights group that advocates for social, economic and political equality, applauded the nomination of Lynch to be the next Attorney General.

 

“She is an excellent and worthy choice to succeed Attorney General Eric Holder in his groundbreaking work for the American people,” said Sharpton. “Though we have not always agreed on cases, I have always seen her operate in the most fair, balanced, and just manner. Americans would be served greatly by her becoming our next Attorney General and the president should be given kudos for such a nomination.”

 

In a written statement on Lynch’s nomination, Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 civil and human rights groups, said that Lynch would bring stability to Department of Justice.

 

“Lynch would bring a steady hand to guide the Department of Justice and would make history as the first African-American woman to serve as Attorney General,” said Henderson. “Having already unanimously confirmed Lynch twice as U.S. Attorney, we urge the Senate to approach its third confirmation process with integrity and expedience in the lame duck session.”

 

But Republicans have already signaled that they don’t have any plans to take up the nomination until the new Congress in 2015, leaving some Washington watchers to speculate about what President Obama will have to give up to get Lynch confirmed by the majority-Republican Senate.

 

Earlier this year, the president made a deal with Senate Republicans to fill vacant seats on federal judicial benches in Middle District and Northern District of Georgia.

 

The deal involved nominating Leslie Abrams for the United States court of the Middle District of Georgia and Eleanor Ross to the United States Northern District of Georgia. Abrams and Ross would become the first Black women to serve lifetime appointments as federal judges in Georgia, but the Democratic-controlled Senate hasn’t voted on either candidate.

 

The compromise also drew the ire of prominent Congressional Black Caucus members and civil rights leaders, because of two other nominees: Michael Boggs and Mark Cohen.

 

Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.) criticized Cohen, because he led the team defending the state’s laws requiring photo identification to vote. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) spoke out against Boggs for voting against removing the Confederate battle emblem from Georgia’s state flag when he served as a state legislator.

 

The Democratic-controlled Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also failed to bring President Obama’s nomination for U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy up for a vote, because it was reported that Reid wasn’t confident that he had enough votes to get him through.

 

Republican lawmakers and the National Rifle Association attacked Murthy over one of his 2012 tweets that said: “Tired of politicians playing politics w/ guns, putting lives at risk b/c/ they’re scared of the NRA. Guns are a health care issue.”

 

The problems that President Obama had getting qualified candidates confirmed to key positions with a Democratic-controlled Senate may foreshadow greater challenges now that the GOP controls both houses of Congress. Still, some lawmakers remain optimistic.

 

In a statement on Lynch’s nomination, Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Chair Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio) said that President Obama showed that he is uncompromising and determined that our country’s top attorney be dedicated to doing what is right for the American people.

 

Fudge said, “I commend President Obama for this selection, and request the confirmation of Ms. Lynch without delay.”

Category: News

November 06, 2014

 

By SARAH DiLORENZO

Associated Press

 

Thousands of people in Sierra Leone are being forced to violate Ebola quarantines to find food because deliveries are not reaching them, aid agencies said.

 

Large swaths of the West African country have been sealed off to prevent the spread of Ebola, and within those areas many people have been ordered to stay in their homes.

 

The government, with help from the U.N.’s World Food Program, is tasked with delivering food and other services to those people. But there are many “nooks and crannies” in the country that are being missed, Jeanne Kamara, Christian Aid's Sierra Leone representative, said Tuesday.

 

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed nearly 5,000 people, and authorities have gone to extreme lengths to bring it under control, including the quarantines in Sierra Leone. Similar restrictions have also been used in Liberia and Guinea, the two other countries hardest hit by the epidemic.

 

Some efforts have begun to show progress. The situation is Guinea is improving, as is the quality of care for Ebola patients, thanks to international aid, said Aboubakar Sidiki Diakite, an official with the country’s Health Ministry, who was visiting Paris on Tuesday.

 

But more treatment centers and medical teams are still needed, the World Health Organization said at a news conference in Geneva on Tuesday. There are currently 16 treatment centers up and running and 58 more planned. To staff those centers, 500 foreign health care workers and 4,000 national ones are still needed.

 

In an address to political leaders in Sierra Leone, President Ernest Bai Koroma said ordinary people also have to do more. He defended the stringent measures he has imposed and called on all citizens to stop dangerous behavior that has fueled Ebola’s spread, such as secret burials where corpses are washed or even people touching the sick.

 

“We have to take the sick out and take the responsibility with firmness,” he said. “We must end Ebola now.”

 

While public health authorities have said heavy restrictions may be necessary to bring under control an Ebola outbreak unlike any other, the Disasters Emergency Committee, an umbrella organization for aid organizations, warned on Monday that they were cutting off food to thousands of people.

 

“The quarantine of Kenema, the third largest town in Sierra Leone, is having a devastating impact on trade — travel is restricted so trucks carrying food cannot freely drive around,” the committee said in a statement. “Food is becoming scarce, which has led to prices increasing beyond the reach of ordinary people.”

 

Because services are not reaching them, people who are being monitored for signs of Ebola — and should be staying at home — are venturing out to markets to look for food, potentially contaminating many others, said Kamara of Christian Aid.

 

When houses are put under quarantine, teams are supposed to go to them to identify their needs, she said: How many people are living there? Are there pregnant women or sick people with special needs?

 

But Kamara said that with the infections still increasing quickly, it was difficult for the government to keep up with the number of people being monitored for the disease. The outbreak in Sierra Leone has been shifting in recent weeks, with the number of new cases ­ballooning in the country’s western and northern districts, far from where the outbreak began, in the country’s east.

 

In October, the World Food Program fed more than 450,000 people in Sierra Leone, including people who are under quarantine or being treated for Ebola, said Alexis Masciarelli, a spokesman for the agency in Dakar, Senegal. The distribution of food has been difficult, he said, since it has required bringing food to remote areas by poor roads.

 

He acknowledged that getting good information about where people need help is difficult, but he said WFP asks smaller organizations, with deep connections to the communities, to help them keep track of a fast-moving situation.

 

Also as part of the effort to control the epidemic, Liberia has ordered that the bodies of all Ebola victims in and around the capital be cremated. Ebola is transmitted through the bodily fluids of infected people, and secretions from dead bodies are among the most infectious.

 

But the neighborhood around the crematorium on the outskirts of Monrovia, called Boys Town, is now demanding that the government move the facility elsewhere. Residents say the ash is polluting the area and the stigma surrounding Ebola is rubbing off on them, with people pointing them out in the market.

 

The residents are threatening to hold a protest Thursday that would block cremations if the government doesn’t move the facility.

 

Associated Press writers Angela Charlton in Paris, Clarence Roy-Macaulay in Freetown, Sierra Leone, and Jonathan Paye-Layleh in Monrovia, Liberia, contributed to this report.

Category: News

November 06, 2014

 

By DAVID ESPO and

ROBERT FURLOW

Associated Press

Riding a powerful wave of voter discontent, resurgent Republicans captured control of the Senate and tightened their grip on the House Tuesday night in elections certain to complicate President Barack Obama’s final two years in office.

 

Republican Mitch McConnell led the way to a new Senate majority, dispatching Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky after a $78 million campaign of unrelieved negativity. Voters are “hungry for new leadership. They want a reason to be hopeful,” said the man now in line to become majority leader and set the Senate agenda.

 

Two-term incumbent Mark Pryor of Arkansas was the first Democrat to fall, defeated by freshman Rep. Tom Cotton. Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado was next, defeated by Rep. Cory Gardner. Sen. Kay Hagan also lost, in North Carolina, to Thom Tillis, the speaker of the state House.

 

Republicans also picked up seats in Iowa, West Virginia, South Dakota and Montana, all states where Democrats retired. They had needed a net gain of six seats to end a Democratic majority in place since 2006.

 

In the House, with dozens of races uncalled, Republicans had picked up 11 seats that had been in Democratic hands, and given up only one.

 

A net pickup of 13 would give them more seats in the House than at any time since 1946.

 

Obama was at the White House as voters remade Congress for the final two years of his tenure — not to his liking. With lawmakers set to convene next week for a postelection session, he invited leaders to a meeting on Friday.

 

The shift in control of the Senate, coupled with a GOP-led House, probably means a strong GOP assault on budget deficits, additional pressure on Democrats to accept sweeping changes to the health care law that stands as Obama’s signal domestic accomplishment and a bid to reduce federal regulations.

 

Obama's ability to win confirmation for lifetime judicial appointments could also suffer, including any Supreme Court vacancies.

 

Speaker John Boehner, in line for a third term as head of the House, said the new Republican-controlled Congress would vote soon in the new year on the “many common-sense jobs and energy bills that passed the Republican-led House in recent years with bipartisan support but were never even brought to a vote by the outgoing Senate majority.”

 

Legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada is likely among the disputed issues to be debated.

 

Said outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, “The message from voters is clear: They want us to work together.”

 

There were 36 gubernatorial elections on the ballot, and several incumbents struggled against challengers. Tom Wolf captured the Pennsylvania statehouse for the Democrats, defeating Republican Gov. Tom Corbett. Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn lost in Illinois, Obama’s home state. Republican Larry Hogan scored one of the night's biggest upsets, in Maryland.

 

Republican Charlie Baker was elected governor of Massachusetts. Maine’s blunt-speaking Republican governor, Paul LePage, won a second term after a three-way race that focused on whether he was a divisive presence in state government.

 

In a footnote to one of the year’s biggest political surprises, college professor Dave Brat was elected to the House from Virginia, several months after he defeated Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a Republican primary.

 

House Republicans defeated 19-term Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall in West Virginia, beat Rep. John Barrow in Georgia and two incumbents in Illinois and picked up a seat vacated by a lawmaker in North Carolina.

 

After years of a sluggish economic recovery and foreign crises aplenty, the voters’ mood was sour.

 

Nearly two-thirds of voters interviewed after casting ballots said the country was seriously on the wrong track. Only about 30 percent said it was generally going in the right direction.

 

More than four in ten voters disapproved of both Obama and Congress, according to the exit polls conducted for The Associated Press and the television networks.

 

Still, a majority of those polled supported several positions associated with Democrats or Obama rather than Republicans — saying immigrants in the country illegally should be able to work, backing U.S. military involvement against Islamic State fighters, and agreeing that climate change is a serious problem.

 

No matter which party emerged with control of the Senate, a new chapter in divided government was inevitable in a nation marked by profound unease over the future and dissatisfaction with its political leaders.

 

Several Senate races were close, a list that — surprisingly — included Virginia.

 

There, Democratic Sen. Mark Warner held a narrow lead over former Republican Party chairman and Bush administration official Ed Gillespie in a race too close to call.

 

There was a little good news for Democrats in New Hampshire, where Sen. Jeanne Shaheen was re-elected after a difficult race against former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown.

 

But in Georgia, Michelle Nunn lost to businessman David Perdue, depriving the Democrats of their last chances to take away a Republican seat. In Kansas, 78-year-old Sen. Pat Roberts fended off a challenge from independent Greg Orman, shutting off another avenue for the Democrats.

 

Among the newly elected Republican senators was Rep. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, the first member of her party to win a seat there in more than a half century.

 

State Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa also won, after a campaign that took off when she aired an ad saying she had learned how to castrate hogs as a girl growing up on a ranch.

 

In statehouse races, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York won a second term.

 

Former Republican Rep. Asa Hutchinson was elected governor of Arkansas more than a decade after playing a prominent role in President Bill Clinton’s impeachment and trial, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott won a tough race for a new term.

 

Also winning new terms were Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican and potential presidential candidates in 2016.

 

Another possible White House hopeful, Republican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, also won.

 

The elections’ $4 billion price tag spending was unprecedented for a non-presidential year.

Category: News

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