Administration Defends NSA Phone Record Collection

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Obama administration is defending the National Security
Agency’s need to collect telephone records of U.S. citizens.  
 Britain’s Guardian newspaper is reporting that the NSA has been collecting the
telephone records of millions of Verizon customers under a top secret court
order. A senior administration official would not confirm the report but did
call such information “a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist
 The Guarding reports the order was granted by the secret Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Court on April 25 and is good until July 19. It requires Verizon on
an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls
in its systems, both within the U.S. and between the U.S. and other countries.  
 The administration official says the order as reported by the newspaper would
“not allow the government to listen in on anyone’s calls.”
 The administration official spoke on condition of anonymity because the
official was not authorized to publicly discuss classified matters. Continue Reading

Breaking News Logo

Year’s First Tropical Storm(Andrea) Strengthening

 MIAMI (AP) _ The first tropical storm of the Atlantic hurricane season has
strengthened this morning. 
Tropical Storm Andrea’s maximum sustained winds increased to near 60 mph and a
new tropical storm warning was issued for a swath of the U.S. East Coast.  
 The warning areas include a large section of Florida’s west coast from Boca
Grande to Indian Pass and for the East Coast from Flagler Beach, Fla., all the
way to Cape Charles Light in Virginia. Continue Reading

Illinois Pays More Than $1-Billion in Past-Due Bills

 CHICAGO (AP) _ More than $1 billion of the state’s overdue bills are being paid
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn on Wednesday signed legislation that pays down the bill
backlog of a number of social service providers.  
 The Community Care Program will receive $142 million. The governor’s office
says another $235 million will go to care for people with developmental
disabilities. Group health insurance will receive $350 million and $500 million
will go to Medicaid bills. Continue Reading

IA Gaming Commission Looks at C.Rapids Proposal

OSCEOLA, Iowa (AP) _ The board that regulates gambling in Iowa is discussing a
proposal to build a $100 million casino in Cedar Rapids. The five-member Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission must decide if it is ready to authorize another casino, adding to the 18 already licensed by the state to operate. The state
also has three Native American casinos not regulated by the board.  
 The Cedar Rapids proposal is on the agenda for the commission’s meeting
Thursday at Lakeside Hotel Casino in Osceola
     Linn County voters approved a gambling referendum in March.  
 The board also is discussing a Davenport group’s plan to buy the Rhythm City
casino located near the Mississippi River. Continue Reading

Rare Persian carpet sold for $33.7 million in New York City

A Persian rug from the early 17th century has sold for $33.7 million in New York City. Sotheby’s auction house says Wednesday’s price for the Clark Sickle-Leaf Carpet was more than three times the previous auction record for a carpet. The Sickle-Leaf Carpet sold to an anonymous telephone bidder. The seller was the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

The carpet was part of a collection bequeathed to Corcoran in 1926 by William A. Clark, an industrialist and U.S. senator from Montana. The previous record price for a carpet was $9.6 million for a Persian carpet sold by Christie’s in London in April 2010. Continue Reading

Manson follower Van Houten denied parole

Former Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten was denied parole Wednesday for the 20th time. Van Houten, 63, told a California parole board in unprecedented detail how committed she was to the murders Manson ordered and asserted she has changed and is trying to live a life of healing. But Board of Parole Hearings Commissioner Jeffrey Ferguson told Van Houten she had failed to explain how someone as intelligent and well-bred as she was could have committed the “cruel and atrocious” murders of Leno and Rosemary La Bianca, and the panel rejected her bid. Van Houten will be eligible for another parole hearing in five years. “I know I did something that is unforgiveable, but I can create a world where I make amends,” Van Houten said. Continue Reading

Homeless man who played Elmo charged in Girl Scouts scam

A homeless man with a history of playing an evil version of the “Sesame Street” character Elmo from coast to coast was charged Wednesday with trying to extort $2 million from the Girl Scouts. Dan Sandler, arraigned on attempted grand larceny and other charges, pleaded not guilty, and a judge ordered him held on $200,000 bail. Prosecutors in Manhattan alleged that the defendant, who also goes by the name Adam Sandler, last year began sending and leaving harassing emails and voice mails for a Girl Scouts supervisor he met while working a temp job at the nonprofit. They said that when the supervisor told him to stop contacting her, he threatened to spread false rumors about sex abuse in the organization unless it gave him a high-paying position or made him a millionaire. “I want a telecommute job from home of life at 150K,” prosecutors say he wrote in one of several rambling emails. Continue Reading

Jodi Arias lawyers take murder case to court of public opinion

Jodi Arias’ attorneys have tried motions for mistrials, allegations of prosecutorial misconduct, appeals to higher courts, even efforts to quit the case entirely. Now, after losing every time inside the courtroom, this week they took their case to the court of public opinion as prosecutors consider whether to continue to pursue the death penalty. “It is solely for them to determine if continuing to pursue a death sentence upon Ms. Arias, who is already facing a mandatory life sentence, is a good and proper use of taxpayer resources,” defense attorneys Kirk Nurmi and Jennifer Willmott wrote in a statement provided only to The Arizona Republic. Jerry Cobb, a spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, declined to comment Wednesday on the defense lawyers’ statement, and said no decision had yet been made on how to proceed. However, San Francisco-area criminal defense lawyer Michael Cardoza said the move by Arias’ attorneys to reach out to the public, specifically through Arizona’ largest newspaper, was strategic and canny. Continue Reading

Southern Baptist ranks dip again as baptisms fall

Membership among Southern Baptists has fallen slightly for the sixth straight year. The nation’s largest Protestant denomination released in-house statistics Wednesday showing that total membership dropped 0.66 percent in 2012. The annual report prepared by the Southern Baptist Convention’s Lifeway Christian Resources and reported by the Baptist Press news service says there were 105,000 fewer Baptists in 2012 than the year before. Baptisms fell by 5.5 percent after a slight increase in 2011. That’s considered a particularly important measure of growth for a denomination committed to evangelism. Continue Reading