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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Chicago Political mess becomes your garbage problem

Chicago residents may soon be paying more for garbage to help pay for the city's pension mess.

The city faces a $600 million pension payment this year to stabilize the pensions being paid to police and firefighters.

Therefore, the city council is considering a monthly fee for garbage collection, just like homeowners in the suburbs. The fee could run anywhere from $10 to $20 a month.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has rejected the idea. He is pushing a $250 million property tax increase instead.

C.P.D. Top cop down plays homicides in Chicago

If you read the headlines out of Chicago this past Easter weekend -- more than 40 shot, including nine killed -- you might be surprised to learn that the city's homicide rate is still trending downward, according to the police chief.

Yes, that's right:  Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy told WGN Radio this week that Chicago's homicide rate is "still ahead of where we were last year, which was a record."  The number of homicides in Chicago last year dropped to 415, compared to 503 in 2012, an 18% drop.  That lower level hasn't been seen since 1965.

"A week doesn't wipe out two years of progress," McCarthy told WGN Radio's Steve Cochran in an interview Monday. "We always knew that we're going to have good days and we're going to have bad days, we've just got to make sure we're having more good days than bad."

But does a lower murder rate really matter in Chicago, where such rampant gun violence has earned the city the nickname "Chiraq"?

"People always say, 'I don't feel much better, even though shootings might be down by 40%,'" McCarthy told CNN.  "Well, the reason for that is kind of simple. If you have 10 shootings in your neighborhood last year, and you have six shootings in your neighborhood this year, do you feel 40% better? Absolutely not."

There are some Chicago neighborhoods -- poorer, less educated, predominantly African-American and infested with gangs -- that have murder rates 10 times higher than other Chicago areas. 

McCarthy says the news coverage of shooting incidents like the ones that took place last weekend doesn't paint a complete picture of the police response.

"We are getting out in front of a lot of shootings," the police chief told CNN.  "It's hard to see success sometimes when you have a spate of shootings."

Chicago's gun violence typically heats up as the temperature rises, so the police department has banked some overtime to deploy more officers to the city's trouble spots.

In the meantime, McCarthy is using the unwanted attention around the bloody Easter weekend to push legislators to pass gun control laws that he says will help police turn things around in Chicago.

"It's just insanity that there's such a proliferation of firearms that they're so easy to get your hands on," McCarthy told WGN Radio on Monday.  "The studies show when there's more restrictive gun laws, there's less gun violence.  It's not brain surgery, it's really really simple.

"It's going to take us a while to fix poverty and the break-up of the family units and education and jobs.  But we can do something about gun laws today and we're just not doing it."

That may be an uphill climb:  In February, a federal judge struck down Chicago's ban on gun sales, saying it went "too far in outright banning legal buyers and legal dealers from engaging in lawful acquisitions."  And in 2010, the Supreme Court declared Chicago's 28-year-old handgun ban unconstitutional. 

Making it even more difficult, last year, Illinois became the 50th state to allow its residents to carry concealed weapons after a veto from its governor failed to kill the legislation.

McCarthy may get some limited help from the feds at least in keeping repeat criminals off the street: the office of newly appointed U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon announced Monday the creation of a violent crimes section to focus on how to more effectively use federal statues to prosecute those behind Chicago's gun violence, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Shortly after Rahm Emanuel took over as Chicago's mayor in early 2011, he brought in McCarthy, who had previously led the police force in Newark, New Jersey.  A year into McCarthy's term, he was hailed as a hero. 

Then, the city's homicide rate skyrocketed at end of 2012 and there were calls for McCarthy's resignation.

As the murder rate started to drop, those calls abated -- but Chicago's police and city leaders, particularly Rahm Emanuel, still face a lot of criticism for not doing enough.

McCarthy, a regular on CNN's original series "Chicagoland," has admitted that the city "has one of the worst, most difficult, most intractable gang violence problems in the country."

And he's made it clear that his top priority is "dealing with gangs, guns and the press.""The media, they keep talking about the rising toll of gun violence in Chicago while the numbers are going in the other direction," McCarthy said last year.

Tempe Police arrest 30 sick fucks for child prostitution

Tempe Police Department detectives have reportedly arrested 30 people involved in a prostitution sting.

According to a news release, detectives conducted a long investigation of human trafficking and prostitution. They were targeting suspects soliciting underage girls for sex acts, females soliciting sex and those acting as pimps.

Police say they have made 16 prostitution arrests and 14 child prostitution.

During the investigation, detectives contacted women online that had created escort ads. They later found that these women were offering sexual favors in exchange for money, according to police.

Detectives also posed as underage girls who were requested for sexual favors.

No other information has yet been released.

Phoenix Police looking for two banana eating apes that robbed pharmacist

A Valley pharmacist is speaking out after his former store was robbed by suspects who police say have struck several times since last year.

Chris Griffee told ABC15 he was the pharmacist at a small store in the West Valley when he was robbed last October.

Griffee said the suspect went into the store and locked the door behind him before showing the staff a stun gun and demonstrating that it worked by turning it on behind the back of a co-worker.

The suspect also displayed a handgun.

Another suspect waited in a car outside the store. Police say the vehicle is a white 4-door Lexus with a partial license plate number of 398.

The suspect demanded and was given oxycodone, Griffee said.

Griffee said he has a friend who was robbed at another small pharmacy and eventually got out of the retail pharmacy business.

Griffee said he believes the suspects target small pharmacies to avoid having to make the long walk through larger stores to reach their pharmacies, and that in those stores there are more chances they’d be caught on surveillance video.

Police say the suspects have committed 12 armed robberies at small “mom and pop” pharmacies throughout the Valley since last July.

The most recent robbery occurred on April 5 in north Phoenix.

The Phoenix Police Department and Silent Witness are offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrests and prosecution of the suspects.

Anyone with information about the suspects or robberies is urged to call Silent Witness at 480-WITNESS to remain anonymous.

Blue Angeles get caught with their Dick in hand

A former commander of the popular Navy flying team the Blue Angels allowed and sometimes encouraged the sharing of porn and sexually explicit humor in the workplace, Navy officials alleged Thursday.

Court documents reveal new details about the allegations that caused a top U.S. Navy officer from Coronado Naval Base to be relieved of duty Friday.

Capt. Gregory McWherter was removed from his post as executive officer of Naval Base Coronado because of alleged misconduct while he was commanding officer of the Blue Angels precision flying team.

McWherter is accused of allowing and in some cases encouraging "lewd speech, inappropriate comments, and sexually explicit humor" in the workplace, according to a Navy statement released Thursday.

While McWherter was commanding officer of the precision flying team sometimes called the "Blues," officials claim "pornographic images were displayed in the workplace and shared in electronic communications" according to the statement.

The allegations refer specifically to the period when McWherter served as Blue Angels commanding officer, from November 2008 to November 2010 and again from May 2011 to November 2012.

The probe, led by an admiral who the Navy declined to identify, began in March and results from a complaint filed by one person, officials said Friday.

McWherter has been temporarily reassigned to Naval Air Forces in San Diego

An after-hours call from the Associated Press to the media office to leave a message seeking comment from McWherter was not immediately returned.

"All Navy leaders, whether assigned to a highly visible unit like the `Blues,' or to our installations, squadrons, ships and submarines, are held to the highest standards," Vice Admiral David Buss, commander of the Naval Air Forces, said in the statement.

"The Navy expects everyone, from those officers in command positions to sailors on the waterfront, to provide principled and highly ethical leadership, stressing discipline, accountability, and the importance of treating shipmates with dignity and respect."

Bundy Saga continues

LAS VEGAS -- Nevada lawmakers and the public are speaking out about racist comments rancher Cliven Bundy said in a New York Times article published Wednesday.

The comments were made as Bundy addressed a group of his supporters who have gathered in Bunkerville. Here is an excerpt from the New York Times story. "I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro," he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, "and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids - and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch - they didn't have nothing to do. They didn't have nothing for their kids to do. They didn't have nothing for their young girls to do.

"And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?" he asked. "They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I've often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn't get no more freedom. They got less freedom."

His comments have outraged the public and Nevada politicians.

U.S. Nevada Representative Steven Horsford called the remarks "truly hateful.""His despicable comments about 'the Negro' belong in the dustbin of history. He is not a man who represents the American West's way of life or the dignity of our hard-working Nevada ranchers. In reality, he is a lawbreaker who has been elevated to national folk hero by a conservative media that will jump at any opportunity to mold an anti-government zealot into a righteous crusader."

Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, who has spent time at Bundy's ranch with the supporters, issued the following statement:

"I strongly disagree with Cliven Bundy's comments about slavery. Mr. Bundy has said things I don't agree with; however, we cannot let this divert our attention from the true issue of the atrocities BLM committed by harming our public land and the animals living on it."

U.S. Senator Harry Reid called Bundy a "hypocrite" and "racist."

"I used to live in North Las Vegas and it is home to some of the hardest-working people I have ever met – men and women who embody the American dream by working hard every day to build a better life for themselves and their families. By contrast, Cliven Bundy has spent decades profiting off government land while refusing to pay the same fair use fees as his fellow ranchers."

U.S. Senator Dean Heller said he "condemns Bundy's racist statements in the most strenuous way."

Bundy has gained national attention in recent weeks concerning a legal battle over cattle grazing rights . Rangers with the Bureau of Land Management, acting on a court order, attempted to remove Bundy's cattle from the public land. The cattle have been illegally grazing on the government's property for 20 years. Bundy claims he has "ancestral rights" to use the property.

Supporters, including armed militia , from around the country came to Bundy's defense and disrupted the BLM from continuing the roundup of the cattle. BLM officials called off the roundup out of concerns for safety .

The statements created a firestorm on social media with some condemning Bundy and others posting comments that the "liberal media" has twisted Bundy's words.

"We KNOW how it was meant....they are twisting it to make him look bad...thats all...but we know the truth," Melinda Wright III posted on the Bundy Facebook page .

"That's right ... play the racism card and distract folks from the REAL issue ... an overreaching government and overreaching bureaucratic nightmare that needs to be squelched ... stay on point folks!" Art Vuilleumier wrote.

Swat team goes after desert ape

LAS VEGAS -- The SWAT situation in a Desert Shores neighborhood ended peacefully at around 11:30 a.m. Thursday.

According to police, officers arrested the suspect without incident. The whole thing started when police said they received calls around 7 a.m. that a man was wandering in the neighborhood northwest of Buffalo Drive and Lake Mead Boulevard armed with a knife and talking to himself.

Police said they attempted to subdue the man using non-lethal tactics, but the man fled through several yards and scaled a wall to the roof of a home on Secret Harbor Court. Police surrounded the home and evacuated nearby residents. SWAT was also called in.

The man refused police commands to get off the roof for several hours. Witnesses said he taunted police and waved the knife around. At one point, he threw a roof tile at one officer on the ground.

Illinois doesn't have a death penalty but this Zion chimp has a date with the grim reaper

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A government lawyer argued today that Jorge Torrez deserves the death penalty, calling him a remorseless serial killer who brutally murdered two young girls in Zion, Ill.

A jury now is considering whether Torrez, 25, a Zion native, should be put to death or be sent to prison for life without the possibility of parole.

Making a closing argument, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Trump condemned Torrez as a man who didn’t care about six female victims – three of whom were slain – but who regarded them as "prizes" or "trophies."

The Zion victims were Krystal Tobias, 9, and Laura Hobbs, 8.

Trump said that "this little man – this coward – can’t admit he brutally murdered two little girls" for sexual gratification.

Both Hobbs and Tobias were stabbed repeatedly in Beulah Park on Mother’s Day in 2005. Testimony in the case indicated that semen had been recovered from Hobbs’ body and clothing, tying Torrez to her fatal stabbing.

"This is no room for doubt," Trump said,  "Jorge Torrez deserves to die."

Torrez instructed his three defense lawyers to say nothing on his behalf during the penalty phase of the case, which arises from the strangulation murder of a sailor near the Pentagon in July 2009. Torrez was a Marine then. He was convicted of her murder April 8, but has not yet been tried for the Illinois crimes.

Already he is serving five life sentences plus 168 years for the northern Virginia attacks on the three surviving victims.

The jurors were excused from court to begin deliberations at 9:15 a.m. Chicago time today. The trial is taking place in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Torrez initially avoided suspicion after the Zion killings. Instead, Hobbs’ father, Jerry Hobbs, confessed to the crime following questioning that stretched across 24 hours, an admission he later said police coerced. Jerry Hobbs was freed after about five years when DNA was linked to Torrez.

102 year old professional ball player dies at the age of 102

The oldest former player with Major League Baseball, Conrado "Connie" Marrero, has died at home in Havana at the age of 102.

Marrero first made his name in Cuba the 1930s - but went on to have a late career surge in Washington in the 50s.

He was also a hero in his home country, where he returned after the 1959 revolution.

Marrero's death, confirmed by relatives, came just two days before his 103rd birthday.

'Living legend'

Marrero debuted for the Washington Senators at the relatively old age of almost 39, a signing initially dismissed as a joke, says the BBC's Sarah Rainsford in Havana.

One writer described him as a cross between a crazy windmill and a duck flying backwards, our correspondent says.
But despite his years, his short stature, and unorthodox style, Marrero soon won over fans and critics alike.

Renowned for his love of cigars and constant wisecracks as well as his game, the pitcher returned to Cuba after retiring and was still working as a coach into his 90s.

Baseball remains Cuba's most popular sport.

And as one of players who stayed in the country after the revolution, Marrero is viewed as a link between the old professional Cuban League and post-revolution amateur Cuban national baseball system.

"He was a living legend of Major League and also for baseball in Cuba before the revolution," baseball fan Manuel Gallego told the Associated Press.

Two death row chimps think they should know the drug that will kill the U.S. Supreme Court says no

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has ruled two death row inmates have no right to learn the source of the drugs to be used to kill them, clearing the way for their execution.

Clayton Lockett, 38, and Charles Warner could be executed on 29 April.

Lawyers for the two argued they needed assurance the executions would not be botched with impure or expired drugs.

Last month, a judge ruled a law guarding the secrecy of the drugs' source was unconstitutional.

But on Wednesday, the state's highest court reversed that ruling.

"The plaintiffs have no more right to the information they requested than if they were being executed in the electric chair," Justice Steven Taylor wrote.

"If they were being hanged, they would have no right to know whether it be cotton or nylon rope; or if they were being executed by firing squad, they would have no right to know whether it be by Winchester or Remington ammunition," he added.

Gasped and choked

The court rulings come as US states are having increasing trouble obtaining drugs used in executions, amid an embargo from European pharmaceutical firms.

Critics say the states that are experimenting with other drugs risk botching executions and causing unnecessary suffering.

In January, for example, an execution in Ohio took 25 minutes to complete, as the inmate reportedly gasped and made choking noises in the moments before he was pronounced dead.

The state used two untried drugs to kill convicted murderer and rapist Dennis McGuire after the maker of the previous execution drug refused to allow its use.

Oklahoma state law blocks officials from revealing - even during court proceedings - the identities of the companies supplying the drugs used to sedate the inmates, paralyse their respiratory systems, and stop their hearts.

The challenge to Oklahoma's law was brought by Lockett, who was sentenced to death for the 1999 shooting of a 19-year-old woman, and Warner, who was convicted for the 1997 murder and rape of an 11-month-old girl.

The state said on 1 April that the men would be executed using midazolam, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride - a combination never before used in Oklahoma, according to the Associated Press.