Category: Breaking News Written by Dana Bash and Tom Cohen
Washington (CNN) -- Sometime in the next 10 days, a fiscal cliff agreement is likely.
It almost certainly won't be the grand bargain sought by President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner that addresses the nation's chronic federal deficits and debt.
It may not happen before January 1, the trigger date for the automatic tax increases on everyone and deep spending cuts of the fiscal cliff.
When it does occur, a deal will likely be similar to proposals rejected by Republicans during similar brinksmanship efforts of the past two years.
"It's all about scoring political points," GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen complained Wednesday on CNN, referring to both sides in the debate. "I know the American people are tired of all of us."
Obama is heading back to Washington on Wednesday night from his Hawaiian vacation, leaving behind the first family, to be ready if the Senate comes up with a plan when it returns Thursday from its own Christmas break.
Meanwhile, House Republican leaders held a conference call Wednesday afternoon but made no decision about when to bring their members back to Washington, according to a GOP source on the call. Members were told last week they would receive 48 hours' notice if they needed to return after Christmas.
The principal dispute continues to be over taxes, specifically the demand by Obama and Democrats to extend most of the tax cuts passed under President George W. Bush while allowing higher rates of the 1990s to return on top income brackets.
Obama campaigned for re-election on keeping the current lower tax rates on family income up to $250,000, which he argues would protect 98% of Americans and 97% of small businesses from rates that increase on income above that level.
Republicans oppose any kind of increase in tax rates, and Boehner suffered the political indignity last week of offering a compromise -- a $1 million threshold for the higher rates to kick in -- that his colleagues refused to support because it raised taxes and had no chance of passing the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Rep. Nan Hayworth, R-New York, acknowledged Wednesday that a deal will have to include some form of higher rates on top income brackets, but she said her party would fight to make it as minimal as possible.
"If that's where people have to go, we'll make the threshold as high as we can," Hayworth said on CNN, arguing that higher taxes in any form burden economic growth. "Because the more relief we provide, the better off we'll be."
Hayworth also made clear that a limited agreement was the most to expect for now, saying: "I don't think we're going to get the big plan in the next six days."
A statement Wednesday by Boehner's leadership team said the Democratic-controlled Senate must act first on proposals already passed by the House but rejected by Senate leaders and Obama.
"If the Senate will not approve and send them to the president to be signed into law in their current form, they must be amended and returned to the House," the leadership statement said. "Once this has occurred, the House will then consider whether to accept the bills as amended, or to send them back to the Senate with additional amendments. The House will take this action on whatever the Senate can pass, but the Senate first must act."
Obama and Democrats have leverage, based on the president's re-election last month and Democratic gains in the House and Senate in the new Congress that will convene in January. In addition, polls consistently show majority support for Obama's position on taxes.
Economists warn that failure to avoid the fiscal cliff could bring a recession, and stocks have been down since the middle of last week, when apparent progress in the talks suddenly unraveled with Boehner proposing his own "Plan B" that was rejected by fellow House Republicans.
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Last Updated on Thursday, 27 December 2012 09:36
Category: Breaking News Written by Michael Arceneaux, The Root
Michael Arceneaux writes at Ebony that Tim Scott -- the man South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley named to replace Jim DeMint and thus become the nation's only black senator -- makes a specious argument when he says that advertising can bring more diversity to the Republican Party.
... During an appearance on CNN's Starting Point, Scott said of the GOP's challenge in luring minority voters: "What we have to continue to do is work through the process of marketing and the ideas that we represent. I believe America is still very much a center-right country. And so what we have an opportunity to do is to walk into new places, new territories, and simply say the plan is clear, the way forward is clear and market ourselves effectively in new places."
How many times have we heard this in the past and has anything ever changed? Like, brother, can you spare a clue? Sister, do you have some sense to spare? Universe, can you send this man a sign?
There is plenty of new data out that suggests that America's political future looks far more favorably to liberalism than conservatism. Scott, with his religious conservatism, anti-gay viewpoints and past attempts to remove entire families off of welfare should one try to strike might bode well in South Carolina in the interim, but how far can politicians with similar beliefs fare in larger states with a more varied population?
And while marketing can do wonders, what kind of evil genius can make cutting funding for HIV/AIDS and impeaching President Obama look appealing to Blacks, Latinos, and women? Or for that matter, to younger Republicans?
Last Updated on Thursday, 27 December 2012 09:18
Category: Breaking News Written by Kim Norgaard, CNN
Johannesburg, South Africa (CNN) -- Former President Nelson Mandela has been discharged from a hospital and will continue receiving treatment at his home in Houghton, a spokesman for South African President Jacob Zuma told CNN on Wednesday.
Mandela, 94, was treated for an acute respiratory infection in 2011. He was hospitalized for a lung infection on December 8; and on December 15, he underwent surgery for removal of gallstones.
Mandela has not appeared in public since the 2010 World Cup hosted in his country.
During the time of apartheid in South Africa, Mandela was convicted of sabotage and was imprisoned for 27 years until 1990.
He and former President F.W. de Klerk, who dismantled apartheid, shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. A year later, Mandela became the nation's first black president.
South Africa last month issued banknotes bearing the picture of Mandela.
Despite his rare public appearances in recent years, Mandela retains his popularity and is considered a hero of democracy in the nation.
South Africans celebrated his 94th birthday in July by participating in good deeds nationwide to honor the legacy of the famous statesman.
Citizens performed at least 67 minutes of public service on his birthday, a reference to the number of years he devoted to helping others.
A day before his birthday, former U.S. President Bill Clinton and his daughter, Chelsea, had lunch with Mandela in the small southeastern village where he grew up and spends most of his time.
Clinton, whose presidential term coincided with Mandela's, hailed him as a "wonderful friend" and planted a tree in his honor during the visit.
"He didn't call me a single time, not once, when he didn't ask about Hillary (Clinton) and Chelsea," Clinton said of their conversations during their time in office. "If it wasn't too late, he'd ask me to go get Chelsea, bring her to the phone, ask about her homework."
Clinton said the anti-apartheid icon has never lost touch with his humanity.
"I saw in him something that I try not to lose in myself, which is no matter how much responsibility you have, he remembered you were a person first," he said.
Mandela's impact has extended far beyond the borders of his own country. After he left office in 1999, he was involved in international situations ranging from conflicts in Africa to the Mideast.
In January 2000, he addressed the United Nations Security Council, appealing for help in ending the brutal civil war between ethnic Hutus and Tutsis in Burundi. In December 2003, he participated in the signing of the Geneva Accords for peace in the Middle East.
A bronze statue of Mandela was unveiled in Parliament Square in London in 2007, and in 2009 the United Nations designated July 18 as Mandela Day in 2009.
Last Updated on Thursday, 27 December 2012 00:28
Category: Breaking News Written by CNN
(CNN) -- Winter weather complicated travel for many Americans on Wednesday -- and left six dead in weather-related accidents, and even forced one NBA team to take the rare step of postponing a game due to the conditions.
Six people, including two young children, have died in weather-related incidents since Tuesday. A 1-year-old and 2-year-old child were killed in a car accident in Arkansas, an official with the state's department of emergency said. Tommy Jackson also said a man was killed in his home in Saline County by a falling tree.
A 53-year-old man in Rayville, Louisiana, was killed when a tree fell on his house, Richland Parish Sheriff Lee Harrell said.
Snow totals in parts of Indiana ranged from 6 to 12 inches, CNN affiliate WRTV in Indianapolis reported. About 350 snowplows were clearing roads throughout the city.
"It's pretty bad. You get a lot of drifting out there. That's what's killing us, mainly," said plow driver David White.
The Indiana Pacers said their game against the Chicago Bulls was rescheduled due to severe weather in Indianapolis. No makeup date was announced.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told residents they should avoid nonessential travel.
"Winter weather has arrived for many parts of the state, so as a precaution we have opened the emergency operation center to coordinate response efforts using all state and local resources," Cuomo said. "I also urge New Yorkers to closely watch local news reports for weather updates and adjust their travel plans accordingly."
New York State Police said long sections of Interstate 84 and the Taconic State Parkway were closed for several hours while crews cleared snow.
Wind was causing major delays at airports, including Philadelphia International Airport. At one point, it had delays of more than four hours, the longest setbacks in the country, the Federal Aviation Administration said. Several other airports in the Northeast experienced delays of more than two hours on Wednesday.
CNN meteorologist Alexandra Steele said wind was the primary problem.
"(Many of) the big cities aren't seeing snow accumulation, they're seeing very heavy rain with the wind, " she said. One gust in New York reached 31 mph, and gusts could become stronger as the night progressed, she said.
Drivers in Pennsylvania were traversing ice- and snow-covered streets and highways. In Pittsburgh, which was seeing its first major snowfall of the season, travelers battled the elements. One said a trip from her mother's house that normally could be done in 30 minutes took her three hours.
CNN affiliate WTAE reported the speed limit of some sections of the Pennsylvania Turnpike were lowered to 45 mph and big rigs with empty trailers or two trailers weren't allowed on the road.
A CNN photojournalist who traveled from Ohio to Washington, D.C., said one two-mile stretch of the turnpike took 30 minutes to navigate.
As many people tried to get home, others were surveying the results of the storms that began in the Midwest and surged east.
A white Christmas is rare for Little Rock, Arkansas, but a powerful winter storm took it to a new level: The 9 inches that fell broke a December 25 snowfall record that stood for 86 years.
In areas where the storm has passed, officials were assessing the damage.
More than 25 storm-related injuries were reported in Mississippi, the state's emergency management office said. No fatalities were reported.
In addition to the injuries, about 70 homes were damaged, most in the southern portion of the state.
On Tuesday, Gov. Phil Bryant declared a state of emergency for several battered Mississippi counties, a declaration that helps get support to victims. He said that at least eight counties reported damage and injuries. Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe declared a statewide disaster.
"Our main priority is focused on recovery," said John Kilcullen, director of operations for emergency management in Mobile, Alabama.
Officials at the National Weather Service gave a preliminary EF2 rating to a tornado that struck downtown Mobile on Christmas Day. Other tornadoes -- one that went though parts of Choctaw County, Alabama, and ones than struck Stone, Lawrence and Jones counties in Mississippi -- also were EF2's, which have wind speeds (for three-second bursts) between 111 and 135 miles per hour.
The weather service said an even stronger EF3-rated tornado struck Pearl River County in Mississippi.
Last Updated on Thursday, 27 December 2012 00:06
Category: Breaking News Written by Minehaha Forman
DETROIT – Detroit firefighters can rest a little easier in the New Year thanks to a donation of more than 150 mattress sets from Art Van Furniture.
The donation, part of a $50 million fundraising initiative for public safety and recreation, is what Mayor Dave Bing called a “first step” to getting Detroit firefighters much-needed resources.
Art Van Elslander, founder of Art Van Furniture and Detroit Fire Commissioner Don Austin joined Bing on Christmas Eve at an east side firehouse to announce the donation.
Bing said the city’s financial state has left firefighters without all of the resources they need.
“Most people would assume that everything for our firemen is in great condition but that’s not the case,” Bing said. “All the equipment that the firemen need on a daily basis—we’ve not been able to supply them with the tools that they need to do their job.”
At Monday’s news conference, Elslander pledged to donate more mattresses if needed. “If there is a shortfall, let me say right now, we’ll take care of that need,” he said.
The donation was made through the Detroit Public Safety Foundation as part of the Mayor’s Active and Safe Detroit Campaign, a 3-year initiative geared to raise $50 million in private funds for the City.
Bing said he spends much of his time as mayor asking for outside help from private donors.
“I spend an important amount of time [asking for help] because of the shortfall in our budget,” Bing said. “We’re not getting the kind of resources we need at the state level or even at the federal level so we’ve really gotta enhance our bottom line by going out to philanthropy, to foundations, to businesses, to successful individuals.”
Bing sais his seeking for help for the city has be received positively in the private sector. He said that the $50 million fundraising initiative is not related to another plan to get outside help from businesses across the state and the country in the form of personnel “loans.”
“If you’re asking if this is related to the executive help from a personnel standpoint the answer would be no,” Bing said. “Because of the cutbacks we have had from a personnel standpoint we are very stressed, we are very light at the management level so we are now reaching out to certain businesses around the state in particular to see whether or not they could loan us executes from anywhere from one to two years.
Bing said on a more positive note that he is starting to see more “positive movement” in the city.
“I will keep going out every day trying to make sure that we tell our story, that things are bad, but not as bad as projected in some cases.” Bing said. “We’ve got a lot of folks coming to the table to help.”
Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 December 2012 12:48
Category: Breaking News Written by Zack Burgess
Gov. Rick Snyder told them they were picking a fight they might regret. He wasn’t wrong.
Last week the governor signed into law bills that ban mandatory union membership, making Michigan the nation’s 24th right-to-work state – changing Detroit and its culture – as it has been known for almost 80 years.
“This is a vengeful attack on labor and the community,” said Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony, president, Detroit Branch NAACP. “It does not guarantee stability. What it does do is eliminate strong unions that advocate on people’s behalf and determine the relationship between management and labor. Michigan must not become the new Mississippi.”
The far-reaching legislation threatens to cripple the power of organized labor in a state that was once a hub of union might. For many Americans, Michigan is the state that defines organized labor.
The term “right-to-work law” is a triumph of framing. Such laws do not, in fact, give you the right-to-work. They give you the right to refuse to pay union dues when you work for a union shop, even though you get the wages the union bargained for, and the benefits the union bargained for, and the grievance process the union bargained for.
“Right now, even before the law goes into effect, people have a choice. They have a right to pay dues or a service fee,” said Al Garrett, president of the Detroit chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union (AFSCME). “We have about 60,000 members in the state of Michigan. I can see hostility in the workplace between those people that are paying dues and those who are paying a service fee, but that will be for management folks to deal with.”
For instance, a person can work in a union shop without joining the union and paying full union dues. The costs of the union’s political activities, its membership events and more are removed from their dues. They pay a lower fee because they are just paying, at least in theory, the cost of the union’s representation activities.
Proponents call their win especially significant because the state is the birthplace of one of the country’s most powerful labor groups, the United Auto Workers. Founded in 1935, the union organized auto workers, winning wages and benefits that transformed assembly-line work into solid middle-class jobs.
“So-called right-to-work laws are wrong for our state,” said UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles, in an e-mail to the Chronicle. “They are more a political maneuver than a vehicle for gaining more jobs and rights. They destroy workplace democracy and drive down wages for all workers, unionized or not.”
Gov. Snyder, a former computer executive who campaigned as a moderate in the 2010 election, had said for nearly two years that right-to-work was too divisive for Michigan, but said he would sign a law if the legislature passed it. After the election he tried to get labor leaders and Republicans together to discuss a compromise, but he said those talks failed.
“We are part of a coalition and are looking into other options as regard to right-to-work,” said Garrett. “Should we go to court? Many things are on the table. We will be agitating for a better form of government as to who is in the House and the Senate. Look at the number of laws that have been passed by these lame duckers in this short of period of time and how sweeping they are. Abortion, gun rights…you name it, they did it. We have to talk about some form of reform.”
Labor Department figures show that unionized workers earn more and have better benefits than their non-union counterparts. But the number of American workers who are in labor unions is in sharp decline.
In Michigan, the share of unionized workers has dropped from 28.4 percent to 17.5 percent since 1985. Meanwhile, the nation’s struggle to hold on to manufacturing jobs and the travails of the auto industry made Michigan an economic basket case long before the recession. After the downturn hit, unemployment in the state peaked at 14.2 percent and now stands at 9.1 percent, far above the national average.
With increasing numbers of working Americans who must make do with falling wages, frozen pensions and long periods of joblessness, it is unclear whether they consider unions their allies. And union leaders have said it is too soon to predict how the new laws would affect their membership and recruiting. Presently, Detroit automakers are covered by existing labor contracts and will not be able to stop paying union fees until those deals lapse, which are in place until September 2015.
The vote ended a swift change of fortune for the forces of organized labor throughout the state. Unions and their supporters spent more than $22 million to back a ballot measure last month that would have guaranteed collective bargaining rights in the state Constitution, only to see it resoundingly defeated.
The rejection emboldened the Republican House and Senate. Sensing an opening, supporters pushed to have the legislature pass the right-to-work measure. Then and only then did Gov. Snyder, who had previously expressed ambivalence, come out in favor of it.
Freedom is not the unions’ friend. After Colorado required public-employees’ unions in 2001 to have annual votes reauthorizing the collection of dues, membership in the Colorado Association of Public Employees declined 70 percent.
After Indiana’s government stopped in 2005 collecting dues from unionized public employees, the number of dues-paying members plummeted 90 percent.
To be continued...
In Utah, automatic dues deductions for political activities were ended in 2001; made voluntary, payments from teachers declined 90 percent. After a similar measure in Washington State in 1992, the percentage of teachers making contributions fell from 82 to 11.
Nationwide, resentment of union power has been building. The Wall Street Journal reports that in the past four years “nearly every state . . . has enacted some form of pension changes” clawing back unsustainable benefits promised to unionized government employees.
The most conspicuous battle was in Wisconsin, where Republican Gov. Scott Walker survived organized labor’s attempt to recall him as punishment for restricting collective bargaining by unionized government workers. After Walker’s reforms, Indiana under Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels became the 23rd right-to-work state and the first in the industrial Midwest.
But in a convergence of methodical planning and patient alliance building — the systematic approach — the reformers were on a roll, one that establishment Michigan Republicans came to embrace.
Republicans executed a plan the timing, the language of the bills, the media strategy, and perhaps most importantly, the behind-the-scenes lobbying of top Republicans, including Gov. Snyder.
They knew they would likely face an acrimonious battle of the kind they had seen over the last two years in the neighboring state of Wisconsin between Gov. Walker and unions. Operating in plain sight but often overlooked, they worked to put the necessary building blocks in place.
November elections turned out to be the key to the December move. House Republicans lost five seats, making passage in January a more difficult proposition than pushing through legislation in the lame-duck session.
But the November elections had also served up a crushing referendum defeat for unions, which Republicans saw as a sign that public opinion would be behind them in their move to curb organized labor’s power. Michigan was the only state in the United States to see its population fall during the previous decade.
At a public meeting of labor and corporate leaders last summer, Gov. Snyder said he deliberately pleaded with union leaders not to go forward with the ballot initiative.
“If you do this, you should anticipate you’re going to create a divisive discussion on right-to-work also,” Snyder told Reuters in an interview last week, recalling his remarks.
Unions pressed forward and some Republicans say that this essentially blew up a “gentlemen’s agreement” between the unions and Republicans that neither would rock the boat on labor legislation in Michigan.
“This was a very backwards decision,” said Anthony. “It’s a movement to make us impure. This is a grand mistake on the governor’s part. It does not help Michigan. It hurts Michigan. All of the states that have right to work laws…have not advanced their communities. Snyder and his cohorts must think very carefully about what they are doing and the divisive and negative impact this will have on the state.”
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 December 2012 12:42
Category: Breaking News Written by Bankole Thompson, Chronicle Senior Editor
The specter of an emergency manager continues to hang over Detroit like the sword of Damocles. The hope of a hotly contested mayoral election to decide the next chapter of leadership in the city is creating a heightening interest in Detroit politics, especially in light of Mike Duggan and Benny Napoleon candidacies.
Duggan, the outgoing CEO of the Detroit Medical Center will be the first major White candidate in more than a decade. Napoleon, the Wayne County Sheriff and former Detroit police chief, is a formidable candidate.
The series of Lansing measures offered as prescription drugs for Detroit’s financial illness, including mediation, consent agreement, emergency manager or bankruptcy, will test the city’s leadership mettle to address its own problems.
With a booming downtown, neighborhoods waiting for revitalization and the advent of entrepreneurship taking root in many forms in Detroit, the city is being challenged to be a plethora of possibilities.
That is why 2013 is a defining year for Detroit. The world is watching. The nation is watching. And everyone who has witnessed the evolution of Detroit for decades is anxiously and cautiously waiting to see how the city defines itself next year.
What happens in the coming year will presage things to come for a long time in Detroit. The city is pregnant with possibilities that have consequences either for the good and betterment of the city or for the bad or worse. The last couple of years have seen Detroit dwindle despite its resilient spirit. From the Census report that showed a dramatic population loss to the turnover of administrations at a city hall manacled in corruption, all have been clouded by the financial distress the city is in.
The inability of the city to correct its own books not only concerns those hard-pressed taxpayers who are getting fewer and fewer services, but also sends a wrong signal to those looking to invest in Detroit. In a series of private conversations with concerned residents, the question always comes up, “When will the city get its act together?”
That has been the haunting question for too long. How the city navigates its sometimes tense relationship with the state will help decide how much involvement Lansing will have in the affairs of Michigan’s largest city — the city whose struggles and challenges have come to define Southeast Michigan and the rest of the state.
Gov. Rick Snyder and Mayor Dave Bing struck a relationship at the beginning of the governor’s tenure that has sometimes been rocky in the fight over the financial stability of the city.
That public clash over the financial measures the city should take to be solvent was evident after Gov. Snyder and Mayor Bing appeared on different occasions at Wayne County Community College District Global Conversation Speaker Series to speak on the state of Detroit. At the downtown campus of WCCCD, both men spoke about their desire to see Detroit grow and education being a crucial part of that growth.
How these two men move Detroit into a space of economic resurgence has been the subject of public debate in the last 12 months. And the debate must continue in the public square, allowing for all ideas to be tested. Detroit has to grow collectively, not selectively. It has to grow with ideas, not political posturing.
For the city to become a thriving 21st century metropolis, it has to change and evolve in many ways. That change doesn’t translate into changing how the entire apparatus of local government works. The change means putting people in key positions who are capable, understand and can relate to the rapidly growing 21st century challenges and be ready to meet them on behalf of the 700,000 that live in the city, as well as the businesses invested in the city.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 December 2012 13:13
Category: Breaking News Written by Hiram E. Jackson CHRONICLE PUBLISHER
Last week I attended Gov. Rick Snyder’s press conference where he, along with several of not only Detroit’s, but Michigan’s most powerful business and political leaders came together to watch him sign pieces of legislation that will benefit the city. It was a good day for Detroit.
The governor signed bills for the Regional Transit Authority, Detroit Lighting Authority, Downtown Development Authority and the Eastern Market.
I was proud.
As protesters marched and shouted, all I could think about was the estimated 25,000 people who are going to be hired over the next few years, in addition to the millions of dollars that is going to be spent on construction, maintenance and vendor contracts – almost $1 billion in investments.
Yet at the same time, there was a part of me wondering if Detroiters would actually have a legitimate seat at the table as the deals are worked out and people are hired.
While we complain about the day-to-day nuisances that have plagued our city – high unemployment, possible bankruptcy, blight, crime and subpar public education — our suburban brethren are moving back to town in droves.
They see what I see — a diamond in the rough, an underperforming but valuable asset. In fact, there are approximately 10,000 new employees working downtown.
The business community is doubling down as if the city were a great stock that took a tumble and investing in the incredible value of this great city of ours. All of this is “great stuff” and from my vantage point, we have to embrace the change and find a way to participate in it.
We can’t just make a fuss from the sidelines and throw rocks at the players on the field. We have an obligation to ask smart questions and make suggestions. We also have a responsibility to challenge our business and political leaders and hold them accountable for training and hiring people here in Detroit. Ultimately, this should also be about more than jobs; it should be about ownership and entrepreneurial opportunities as well.
I am very pleased with the resurgence of Midtown and downtown Detroit and Midtown, the ongoing Riverfront developments, what Pete Karmanos and Mike Illitch have meant to this town, Dan Gilbert’s buying spree and the many shops and restaurants popping up.
These are good people doing their part, but it won’t be enoughto spur a true renaissance if the job and contracting opportunities do not benefit the everyday folk in Detroit. That’s not divisive talk or setting up an “us versus them” debate, that’s just real talk.
Furthermore, we have been very supportive of the governor and the corporate community, who have worked very hard to bring Detroit back from the brink of non-relevance.
Despite everything, Detroit is headed in the right direction and we need to keep it that way. We have to move ahead, figure out what everyone agrees on and negotiate the differences.
So, as publisher of the Michigan Chronicle, I am calling for Detroiters not to be distracted by the endless stream of negative news that comes from the mainstream media or the divisive politics that sometimes comes out of Lansing.
That is just the sideshow. But keep your eyes on the slow but substantive change that is happening in Detroit and embrace it.
Let’s stay focused on how we as Detroiters can prepare ourselves to directly participate in the economic opportunities that will be coming our way.
If Detroit is to be a world-class city again, we need to find a way to improve the lives of everyone here.
Detroit, the train is leaving the station. But the good news is that if we position ourselves correctly, we can catch it and help lead it back to greatness. But to do this, we need a seat at the table.
Hiram E. Jackson is the publisher of the Michigan Chronicle and CEO of Real Times Media.
Last Updated on Monday, 31 December 2012 17:11
Category: Breaking News Written by CNN Staff
(CNN) -- A federal judge signed off on BP's settlement with businesses and people hard hit by the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans issued a 125-page ruling Friday night on a class-action suit. He gave the settlement preliminary approval in May and overruled questions and criticism of the agreement in his Friday ruling.
"None of the objections, whether filed on the objections docket or elsewhere, have shown the settlement to be anything other than fair, reasonable, and adequate," the ruling said. "The low numbers of objections and opt-outs are evidence of the settlement's fairness."
BP has estimated a settlement of about $7.8 billion paid from a $20 billion trust. Thousands of businesses and individuals made claims in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, some coastal counties in eastern Texas and western Florida and adjacent Gulf waters and bays.
With the exception of seafood claims, there is no cap on the amount BP will pay to those who agree to the settlement.
BP will pay $2.3 billion to commercial fishermen, seafood boat captains and crew, seafood vessel owners and oyster leaseholders.
The money represents "approximately five times the annual average industry gross revenue for 2007 to 2009 of the seafood industry in the region covered by the settlement agreement." It also "represents 19.2 times lost industry revenue in 2010," the ruling said.
The ruling notes that "the settlement program is processing claims in an "impressive fashion." By last month, 4,500 claims were processed per work.
BP said it is pleased the court approved the settlement "resolving the substantial majority of legitimate economic loss and property damage claims stemming from the Deepwater Horizon accident."
It called the decision "another important step forward for BP in meeting its commitment to economic and environmental restoration efforts in the Gulf and in eliminating legal risk facing the company."
"We believe the settlement, which avoids years of lengthy litigation, is good for the people, businesses and communities of the Gulf and is in the best interests of BP's stakeholders," it said in a statement.
Dean Blanchard, a shrimp processor in Grand Isle, Louisiana, said he opted out of the agreement. He said he wouldn't have gotten a fair amount of money and is planning his own lawsuit.
"BP is trying to make a one size fits all," he said, saying some people and businesses were hit worse than others and deserve more money. "It's not right."
The oil spill -- one of the worst in U.S. history -- began after a rig explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf. Eleven workers died.
Oil spewed into the sea for nearly three months before a cap was placed on the BP-owned Macondo well, nearly a mile beneath the surface.
The spill damaged coral reef formations, according to researchers. Scientists have previously confirmed that a plume of hydrocarbons from the well settled in the deep Gulf. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said about 59,200 barrels of oil a day flowed from the well.
Last month, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that BP will plead guilty to manslaughter charges stemming from the explosion and the spill. It agreed to pay $4.5 billion in government penalties.
Of those penalties, $4 billion will resolve criminal charges. An additional $525 million will be paid to resolve claims brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission that BP lied to investors by understating the amount of oil flowing into the Gulf.
Separate from the corporate manslaughter charges, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging the two highest-ranking BP supervisors on board the Deepwater Horizon on the day of the explosion with 23 criminal counts.
The two men were charged with seaman's manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter for each of the 11 men killed in the blast, as well as a criminal violation of the clean water act.
The Justice Department in September also accused BP of gross negligence and a "culture of corporate recklessness" in a federal court filing, which expanded the company's liability. A major civil trial is set to take place in New Orleans in February.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 December 2012 09:52
Category: Breaking News Written by Britney Spear
(CNN) -- A sniper who ambushed volunteer firefighters in upstate New York on Monday, killing two and seriously wounding two others, left a note saying he hoped to burn down his neighborhood and kill as many people as possible, police said Tuesday.
A charred body, believed to be his sister's, was found in the burned house she shared with him Tuesday, police said.
William Spengler, 62, used a Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle, the same kind of weapon used in the assault on Sandy Hook Elementary School, Webster Police Chief Gerald Pickering said.
"He was equipped to go to war," Chief Pickering said.
The shooter, who was convicted of killing his grandmother decades ago, was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound hours later.
Pickering, at a news conference Tuesday, read a sentence from the three-page typewritten note that detectives believe Spengler left behind: "I still have to get ready to see how much of the neighborhood I can burn down and do what I like doing best -- killing people."
The note indicated Spengler's intentions, but not his motive, Pickering said. The rest of the contents will not be made public because it is evidence in a criminal investigation, he said.
There is "all kinds of speculation" about why he wanted to destroy his neighborhood and kill firefighters and residents, Pickering said.
One theory is that he was upset about a donation his mother, who died in the past year, made to the fire department, he said. Another theory is there could be a connection to his arrest in the killing of his grandmother, he said.
"Motive is always the burning question, and I'm not sure we'll ever really know what was going through his mind," Pickering said.
Spengler was convicted in 1981 of first-degree manslaughter in the death of his grandmother and had been released on supervised parole, Pickering said.
It will be a challenge for the medical examiner to determine if William Spengler's sister -- 67-year-old Cheryl Spengler -- was killed before the fire was set, because it was a "raging inferno," Pickering said.
A former neighbor, Roger Vercruysse, said that Spengler was a nice guy who used to come over to Vercruysse's sister's house for holiday parties and would wave to the family from his front porch, where he often sat during the summer.
"He'd come to our house, we used to have picnics," he said.
Spengler was especially attentive to his mother, who passed away in October, Vercruysse said, visiting her every day in the nursing home where she lived until she died.
"He loved his mama," Vercruysse said. "He always talked about his mother."
Spengler did not share the same closeness with his sister, with whom he shared his home, Vercruysse said.
"He told me he hated his sister and never could tell me why," he said. "I'd always wave to the sister, but she was not friendly."
Firefighters from the Rochester-area town of Webster responded before 6 a.m. Monday to a 911 call, reporting a fire that Spengler is believed to have set, when the gunfire began, Pickering said.
"This was a clear ambush on first responders," he said. Spengler was firing from "a natural depression" against a bank and a tree, he said.
An off-duty police officer, who happened on the scene, returned gunfire and sheltered firefighters with his car, Pickering said.
"Had the police officer not been there, more people would have been killed because he immediately engaged the shooter with a rifle," he said. "Essentially, it was a combat condition." Investigators won't know until after an autopsy if any of his shots hit Spengler, he said.
Officer John Ritter of the Greece, New York, Police Department, suffered minor shrapnel wounds but was released after treatment at a hospital.
The two wounded firefighters were in stable condition after surgery Tuesday, Pickering said Tuesday morning. They were being treated for "serious injuries" in intensive care at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, New York, he said.
Seven houses were destroyed and several others damaged by the fire, which investigators believe spread from a car parked next to the home where they believe Spengler lived, Pickering said.
Authorities do not know how Spengler obtained the Bushmaster rifle, .38-caliber revolver and 12-gauge shotgun he used, Pickering said. As a convicted felon, Spengler was not allowed to legally possess weapons.
In chilling audio heard over a scanner Monday, a West Webster Fire Department firefighter reported "multiple firemen shot" -- including himself, with wounds to his lower back and lower leg -- and "shots still being fired."
"I'm pretty sure that we have two DOAs" -- the term for dead on arrival -- "on the street," the wounded firefighter said. "... They're down and not good."
For several hours after that, the threat of gunfire stopped firefighters from battling the blaze and forced police SWAT teams to evacuate 33 people in the neighborhood of small waterfront homes.
The fire destroyed seven houses. It was under control by 2:30 p.m. ET, but authorities weren't able to get into any of the homes. Pickering said it's possible that more victims could be inside.
Lt. Michael Chiapperini, a firefighter who died at the scene, was a veteran of the West Webster Fire Department and a police lieutenant. He'd been named Firefighter of the Year just two weeks ago. And not long before that, he had volunteered to go to Long Island to help those suffering after Superstorm Sandy, New York Lt. Gov. Bob Duffy said.
The other slain firefighter was Tomasz Kaczowka, who was also a 911 dispatcher. He'd been with the West Webster Fire Department for just more than a year, department spokesman Al Sienkiewicz said.
The shooting occurred amid a renewed gun control debate after the December 14 elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 26 people, most of them children. The gunman in that case, Adam Lanza, also killed his mother and himself.
The head of a lobbying group that represents first responders said the Monday shooting was "senseless and cruel."
"The firefighters who responded today were performing a selfless, meaningful service to their community, unaware that a cold-hearted maniac was planning to ambush them and take their lives," said Harold Schaitberger, general president of the Washington-based International Association of Fire Fighters. "Coming on the heels of the horrific tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, and on Christmas Eve, this shooting is even harder to comprehend."
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo described the Webster shooting as "horrific." And the state's attorney general called it a "senseless tragedy"
President Barack Obama has set a January deadline for "concrete proposals" to deal with gun violence after the Newtown shooting.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, has said she will introduce legislation to reinstate the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004, while National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre has said his group will fight any new gun restrictions, saying most gun laws now on the books are rarely enforced.
Pickering, the Webster police chief, said it was important -- after the shooting in his town and others -- to "get a handle on gun control." He also said more needs to be done to make sure that dangerous people aren't in society, where they can kill.
"For the last 20 years, we have been turning people loose and de-institutionalizing people, and I think we've swung too far," he said. "I think there are still people that need to be in institutions that are a danger to themselves or others. And this is a classic example."
Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 December 2012 09:36
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