Arias cries as sister of murdered victim calls him 'glue' of family during emotional impact statement

Jurors deciding whether convicted murderer Jodi Arias will get the death penalty heard the victim’s brother describe Thursday how he was hospitalized for ulcers, lost sleep and separated from his wife after his brother was killed. Travis Alexander’s younger brother Steven paused to choke back tears and regain his composure as he recounted the phone call he got from his sister the day his brother’s body was found. “She told me, `Steven, Travis is dead,”‘ he said. “I thought I was dreaming.” The same jury convicted Arias of first-degree murder last week after about 15 hours of deliberations. Continue Reading

Wife who can't load shotgun uses it to club bear attacking husband

A Wisconsin woman saved her husband from an attacking black bear outside of their cabin by hitting the animal with a gun, authorities said. Fox 11 reports that Gerre Ninnemann initially saw the bear running after his dog, Maddy, on Wednesday. He then went outside the Silver Cliff cabin to summon the 8-year-old yellow lab inside, but the bear chased and tackled Ninnemann, biting and clawing at his back. “I came running out into the yard here, shouting, waving my arms at the bear, thinking that would care him away,” the retired financial planner told the station. “But it didn’t. Continue Reading

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Lawmakers Reach Deal on IA PropTax, Income Tax Reform

After two and a half years of negotiations, legislators have tentatively agreed on a plan that will reduce commercial property taxes in Iowa, set a slightly lower limit on future property tax increases for homes and farms, AND reduce income taxes as well.  

Commercial property tax rates will be cut by 10 percent within three years, a roll-back republicans sought, and a new tax credit will be created for all commercial property owners, something Democrats proposed. The Democrats’ call for increasing a tax credit for low-income iowans is included in the package, as well as a new tax credit of up to 60 dollars a year for Iowa income taxpayers – something Repubklicans like House Speaker Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha wanted as a way to deal with unspent or surplus money in the state budget. The plan also sets a slightly lower, three percent limit on how much assessments on residential and farmland can go up each year. The present limit is four percent. Paulsen says that means the package deals with all classes of property in Iowa. Continue Reading

IL Concealed Carry Conversation Continues; Chicago Unique?

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — An Illinois Senate committee has approved a concealed carry proposal that would require special permission to have a gun in Chicago.  

The Senate Executive Committee approved Sen. Kwame Raoul’s (KWAH’-may rah-OOLZ’) proposal 10-4 on Thursday afternoon. Republican minority leader Christine Radogno voted “present.” The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in December that Illinois’ ban on concealed carry is unconstitutional. Continue Reading

Iowa Bank Robber Charged with Trying to Escape

BENTON, Ill. (AP) — A convicted Iowa bank robber serving a roughly six-year sentence at a federal prison camp in southern Illinois is accused of trying to escape.  

Fifty-five-year-old David John Pederson was arraigned Thursday in U.S. District Court in Benton on the escape charge. Prosecutors say Pederson was being transferred in March from the Marion camp to a halfway house in Council Bluffs, Iowa, when he left the extended limits of his confinement, constituting an escape. He was indicted on the escape charge on May 9. Continue Reading

Iowa SupCo Rules Against Dental Price Caps by Insurers

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Supreme Court says insurers cannot impose price caps on dentists who accept their plans for procedures that aren’t reimbursed.  

The court’s 7-0 ruling Friday is a victory for dentists who can now set their own prices for some services, rather than being forced to accept the maximum fees that insurers want them to charge. But it’s also a potential setback for patients who could see higher bills for some procedures, even some that their policies would normally cover. Under the ruling, dentists are free to set their own prices when an insurer does not pay for a normally-covered procedure because of limits in the policy, such as how maximum annual benefits. Iowa’s insurance commissioner warned in 2011 that customers could face significantly higher costs if dentists prevailed. Continue Reading

Greek Jobless Rate to Remain Above 20% Til 2016

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece’s international lenders say the country’s six-year recession is still likely to end in 2014, but unemployment will remain above 20 percent for another three years.  

The European Commission’s report released Friday said Greece’s economy is expected to grow by 0.6 percent next year, although it noted this depends on faster reforms in the product and services markets. Unemployment is projected to peak at 27 percent this year before dropping gradually to 21 percent in 2016. Greece has depended on rescue loans from other eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund since May 2010. While the government has said it aims to return to the bond markets next year, the report noted that full market access “will remain challenging in the years ahead.” Continue Reading

Kidnapped Women Fund Grows to $480,000

CLEVELAND (AP) — An official says a charity set up to help the three women freed from a decade of captivity in a Cleveland house has raised more than $480,000 so far.  

Lynne Woodman of KeyBank tells The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer that there have been more than 5,100 donations to what has been named the Cleveland Courage Fund. She says donations have come all 50 states and several foreign countries. The money will go into four trust funds established for the victims.

Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight — along with Berry’s 6-year-old child born in the house — were freed from the house on the city’s west side last week. Ariel Castro, the man accused of kidnapping and raping them, remains jailed under a suicide watch. Continue Reading

Outgoing IRS Chief to Testify About Targeting Complaints

WASHINGTON (AP) — Lawmakers are ready to question the ousted head of the Internal Revenue Service as Congress this morning holds its first hearing on the extra scrutiny the IRS gave tea party and other conservative groups that applied for tax-exempt status.  

The Republican-run House Ways and Means Committee will question Steven Miller, who was acting IRS director until he resigned Wednesday. Also testifying is J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration. In a new report, George concludes that the IRS office in Cincinnati improperly singled out tea party and other conservative groups for tougher treatment when they sought tax-exempt status. The report says the practice began in March 2010 and lasted more than 18 months. Continue Reading