December 29, 2009
Posted: 06:11 PM ET
The DHS secretary will likely survive her "the system worked" flub. The real damage, Reihan Salam says, is to Democrats' 2010 chances now that the GOP has a new opening for white voters.
Of all President Obama's cabinet members, Janet Napolitano was until recently a good bet for the most likely to succeed. As the popular Democratic governor of Arizona, long considered a deep-red bastion of Goldwaterite conservatism, she had already demonstrated tremendous political prowess. Indeed, she was touted by many as a potential running mate for Obama or as a giant-killer who could defeat John McCain in a Senate race. As a tough prosecutor during the Clinton years, she had a pitch perfect resume for a New Democrat: tough on drug dealers, but also tough on white-collar criminals. And as governor of a state that includes a large Latino population and more than a few rock-ribbed right-wingers, she was also unusually good at finessing the always-tough issue of border security.
That is undoubtedly why the president named her as his pick for the thankless job of heading the bureaucratic ass-covering monstrosity we like to call the Department of Homeland Security. Looking ahead to 2010 and 2012, the White House had good reason to expect that immigration reform would be the issue to watch, and there was no better choice than a tough-as-nails, super-competent border state governor to mind the store. But then came the case of the explosive underpants.
Posted: 02:58 PM ET
(CNN) - The Christmas Day airline terror alert has brought focus on PETN, a substance till now largely unknown to the public.
The white powder is said to be central to the alleged plot by Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab to bring down a passenger aircraft, carrying 300 passengers, as it prepared to land in Detroit. But just what is PETN?
What does PETN look like?
Pentaerythritol tetranitrate, to give it its full name, is a fine white powder that resembles sugar or salt. It does not compress down very well.
How easy is to obtain?
The core chemical in PETN is hard to make or get your hands on.
How volatile is PETN?
Not very. Although it is an explosive, you have to hammer it or ignite it to make it go off. And since it is not volatile, it is perfect for a terrorist on a long haul flight.
As Sidney Alford, a UK explosives expert, explained to CNN's senior international correspondent Nic Robertson: "It wouldn't go off accidentally. If I was carrying a pocketful of just neat powder in my pocket, it blowing up would be the last of my worries."
December 27, 2009
Posted: 07:31 PM ET
(CNN) - A security alert aboard a Northwest Airlines jet ended Sunday after investigators determined the incident - the second in two days involving a Detroit, Michigan-bound flight - was "non-serious," federal authorities said.
The crew of Northwest Flight 253 reported a "verbally disruptive" passenger Sunday and requested police meet the plane when it arrived from the Netherlands, the airline told CNN. The man was questioned by police after the plane landed in Detroit early Sunday afternoon.
The Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight is the same one targeted Friday in what prosecutors called a failed attempt to blow up a jetliner. Sandra Berchtold, a spokeswoman for the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Detroit, said Sunday's alert was caused by a passenger who "spent a lengthy time in the restroom."
"This raised concerns, so an alert was raised," she said. "JTTF investigated, and the investigation shows that this was a non-serious incident and all is clear at this point."
The passenger spent about an hour in the bathroom and got upset when he was questioned by the crew of the flight from Amsterdam, Netherlands, according to government sources. Law enforcement agents questioned the man Sunday.
The jet had the same designation - Flight 253 - as the one on which a Nigerian man is accused of attempting to set off an explosive device Friday, said Scott Wintner, a spokesman for the Wayne County Airport Authority. Winter told CNN the flight "requested emergency assistance and was pulled aside upon arrival in Detroit."
The jet was taken a long distance from the terminal and "completely engulfed" by emergency vehicles and heavily armed police once it landed, said Don Graham, who was waiting for relatives to arrive at the airport.
The flight arrived about 12:34 p.m., said Susan Elliott, a spokeswoman for Delta Air Lines, which owns Northwest. The 257 passengers were allowed to leave the aircraft about an hour after the jet landed, she said.
December 22, 2009
Posted: 01:16 PM ET
A state appellate court Monday rejected Roman Polanski's bid to have his 1977 child-sex prosecution dismissed but outlined a way that could end the long-running case without Polanski serving more time behind bars or returning to the American justice system he fled three decades ago.
In a 3-0 ruling, the 2nd District Court of Appeal suggested that Polanski ask to be sentenced in absentia for the statutory rape he admitted committing 32 years ago.
According to the three-justice panel, the sentencing hearing held in his absence would provide a forum for a Los Angeles County judge to evaluate Polanski's allegations of prosecutorial and judicial misconduct in the original handling of the case.
If the evidence is persuasive, the justices wrote, "we are confident that the trial court could fashion a legal sentence that results in no further incarceration for Polanski."
The opinion made clear that the justices were troubled by the misconduct allegations, enough so that they took the unusual step of injecting themselves into the details of a specific case.
"We exhort all participants in this extended drama to place the integrity of the criminal justice system above the desire to punish any one individual, whether for his offense or for his flight," the justices wrote.
The move surprised legal experts.
December 14, 2009
Posted: 05:37 PM ET
Our country is in big trouble ... huge trouble. It is time that Americans took a hard look at our values, our conception of justice, and our standards for truth. This piece is intended as a first step in that direction.
The story of Tiger Woods and his (now admitted) "infidelity" is everywhere. The Woods' story has piqued the prurient interests of America and the world. The story has dominated the mainstream media for days while the injustice being committed against our Navy Seals and the revelation of the computer code from the CRU (exposing the biggest hoax in the history of the world) have gotten scant attention.
Tiger Woods was on the cover of every magazine and tabloid that I saw while standing in line at the grocery store yesterday. Those publications and those stories are on the grocery stores' racks for a reason: Americans are buying them.
December 11, 2009
Posted: 05:34 PM ET
Rome, Italy (CNN)
- The man convicted of killing British student Meredith Kercher has given an interview from his Italian jail cell, insisting Amanda Knox is a "sweet girl" incapable of murder.
Raffaele Sollecito, who was sentenced to 25 years for his role in Kercher's death, told an Italian newspaper that he was struggling to come to terms with the verdict and feared going "insane" in prison.
Asked if his former girlfriend Knox - also convicted of Kercher's murder and jailed for 26 years - was capable of killing, Sollecito told Il Messagero: "It is absurd and inadmissible. She is a very sweet girl."
Sollecito's lawyer Luca Maori, who acted as an intermediary for the newspaper, confirmed to CNN that the interview had taken place and was reported accurately.
American student Knox and Italian Sollecito were convicted last week of murdering Kercher, who was found with her throat slit in the apartment she shared with Knox in the Italian town of Perugia. Both, and another suspect found guilty in a separate trial, are appealing.
December 10, 2009
Posted: 12:57 AM ET
Uganda will drop the death penalty and life imprisonment for gays in a refined version of an anti- gay bill expected to be ready for presentation to Parliament in two weeks, James Nsaba Buturo, the minister of ethics and integrity, said.
The draft bill, which is under consideration by a parliamentary committee, will drop the two punishments to attract the support of religious leaders who are opposed to these penalties, Buturo said today in a phone interview from the capital, Kampala.
Ugandan lawmaker David Bahati presented a private member’s bill on Oct. 14 which sought the death penalty and life imprisonment for gay people in the country. The Ugandan government supports the bill because homosexuality and lesbianism are “repugnant to the Ugandan culture,” Buturo said. Still, it favors a more refined set of punishments, he said.
December 8, 2009
Posted: 12:14 AM ET
By Vanessa Miller, via ColoradoDaily.com
A former child TV star who has been wanted by authorities for more than a year after skipping a court hearing in July 2008 was arrested Saturday on the year-old warrant and on suspicion of hitting his “best friend” in the face with a broken stool.
Brian Bonsall, 28, now faces new third-degree assault charges and failure to appear charges in connection with a previous assault case dating back to 2007.
Bonsall, who most notably starred as Michael J. Fox's little brother Andy Keaton on the 1980s TV series “Family Ties,” lived in Boulder for several years, graduating from Boulder High in 2000, before leaving town in 2008. His time in Boulder was marred by numerous run-ins with authorities, including an arrest in 2004 for drunk driving and an arrest in 2007 for assaulting his girlfriend.
December 7, 2009
Posted: 05:49 PM ET
Kurt Knox and Edda Mellas say the verdict was unjust and are vowing to appeal. What legal options do they have? Why do they think the Italian justice system is flawed? We'll ask tonight on Larry King Live!
And we want to hear from you:
Do you think the U.S. government should do anything to help Amanda Knox's case?
Posted: 05:33 PM ET
Note: Amanda Knox's parents join Larry tonight to react to the verdict and discuss the next steps in the case. Can they save their daughter from a 26-year jail sentence? That's tonight at 9ET/6PT!
Perugia, Italy (CNN) - Amanda Knox is in an Italian jail, sentenced to spend the next 26 years there for the 2007 slaying of her roommate, Meredith Kercher, while the two were exchange students in Italy.
But despite a trial lasting nearly a year, many questions about the case remain unanswered.
Reporters who have covered the crime and its aftermath for months left Perugia after the verdict last week saying they felt they knew no more about what happened in Knox and Kercher's house on November 1, 2007, than they did when Kercher's partially naked body was found the next morning.
The verdicts against Knox, an American, and her then-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito came very early Saturday, delivered in a vaulted brick courtroom two levels below ground in this Italian university town. Sollecito was sentenced to 25 years in prison. A third suspect, Rudy Guede, was convicted earlier and sentenced to 30 years.
Knox's family insisted the verdict was unjust and vowed to appeal, and one of the senators from her home state of Washington publicly questioned the verdict minutes after it was announced.
"The prosecution did not present enough evidence for an impartial jury to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Ms. Knox was guilty," Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Democrat, said in a written statement. "Italian jurors were not sequestered and were allowed to view highly negative news coverage about Ms. Knox.
"Other flaws in the Italian justice system on display in this case included the harsh treatment of Ms. Knox following her arrest; negligent handling of evidence by investigators; and pending charges of misconduct against one of the prosecutors stemming from another murder trial," Cantwell said.
Kercher's family, from the United Kingdom, said they were satisfied with the verdict. Pressed on whether it was the right one, they said people should follow the evidence.
That evidence, however, is far from conclusive. The outstanding questions don't clearly favor either the defense or the prosecution; neither side seems to have presented an airtight argument.
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