May 31, 2009

Last known Titanic survivor dies

Posted: 06:39 PM ET

art_titanic_survivor_afp_gi(CNN) - Millvina Dean, believed to be the last survivor of the Titanic, has died at 97, her friends confirmed Sunday.  Dean was just an infant when the RMS Titanic - publicized as "practically unsinkable" as the largest passenger steamship at the time - struck an iceberg on the night of April 14, 1912, during its maiden voyage from Southampton in southern England to New York. The ship sank less than three hours later, killing more than 1,500 people.

Brian Ticehurst, a friend of Dean, said she died at 8 a.m. (3 a.m. ET) Sunday.

Dean was hospitalized a few days ago for medical complications before returning to the Woodlands Ridge Nursing Home in Southampton, added Charles Haas, a friend and president of the Titanic International Society based in New Jersey. A nurse at the home declined to comment on Dean's passing.

Haas said Dean's last public appearance was at the British Titanic Society's convention in April, which she attended with her longtime companion, Bruno Nordmanis.  "She only visited a short while, but she wowed everybody with her charm," Haas told CNN. "She seemed in good spirits."  Haas noted that Dean's death fell on May 31, exactly 98 years after the Titanic was launched.

While Dean's survivorship gained her celebrity-like status in some circles, she was 8 years old before she knew she was even on the fateful ship.    Dean, along with her young brother and mother, survived the sunken Titanic, but her mother didn't tell her about it until years later, Haas said.

Although she didn't have memories of the historic and tragic event, Dean, who never married or had children, became a larger presence for Titanic enthusiasts and historians over the past three decades.  "Having gone threw that disaster she was given extra years and an extra dose of vitality," said Haas, who recalled escorting Dean to a Titanic society gala a few years ago.

Dean became the last known Titanic survivor after Barbara Joyce Dainton died in October 2007. The last American survivor, Lillian Asplund, died in May 2006.

Dean's death leaves only artifacts and videotaped interviews with survivors to "speak to us about the Titanic," Haas said.

CNN's Justin Lear contributed to this report.

Filed under: Larry King Live

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Update: Strangers reunite dying teen with Guatemalan family

Posted: 04:08 PM ET**Update: Today, Larry King will visit Juan Gonzalez in the hospital.   The teen from Guatemala developed heart problems in the US and was diagnosed to die (CNN's full coverage below.)

His dying wish was to see his parents. Through Delta Airlines and the donations from strangers, Gonzalez' parents were able to come to the United States to see him.

After the story aired on CNN, donations came in for a heart transplant for Juan. The Larry King Cardiac Foundation helped by connecting the boy with a hospital who can provide care for his much needed heart transplant surgery. Larry's in Atlanta today to promote his new book "My Remarkable Journey". On the way to his Atlanta event, Larry stopped by the hospital to see Juan Gonzalez. CNN is covering this emotional meeting and we'll bring you more coverage as it develops.


From Brooke Baldwin and Shawn Nottingham

(CNN) Eighteen-year-old Juan Gonzalez was dying alone in a hospital, thousand of miles from his Guatemalan home. He was separated from the family he had traveled to the United States to help support. Diagnosed with a chronically weak heart, without much money and lacking resources, Gonzalez seemed bound to die without ever seeing his parents again. That changed after CNN aired a story about his plight.

Thanks to the help of a compassionate hospital staff, a U.S. congressman and a concerned community, Gonzalez has been reunited with his parents for what may be the last time. Like many undocumented workers, Gonzalez came to the United States last fall to provide some financial help for his family, who had fallen on hard times back in Guatemala. He took a job as a dishwasher in Rome, Georgia, making about $250 a week. Then, in November, his heart gave out.

Gonzalez has been in and out of the hospital for seven months. Doctors diagnosed Gonzalez with dilated cardiomyopathy, which means his heart muscle is very weak. Dr. Frank Stegall, Gonzalez's cardiologist, said the Guatemalan teen's heart pumps only 20 percent of the blood a healthy heart should.But as Gonzalez's heart failed him, he opened up the hearts of others. Stegall and the staff at Rome's Redmond Regional Medical Center were inspired by Gonzalez's attitude and courage and set out to reunite the dying teen with his parents. They contacted U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Georgia.Gingrey got the State Department involved in expediting visas for Pascual and Maria Gonzalez, Juan's parents.

Delta Air Lines donated tickets to Atlanta, and the Gonzalezes boarded a plane for the first time, bound for Georgia to see their dying son.Gonzalez has vowed to fight to the end, but doctors say his prognosis isn't good. With no money, Stegall says, it will be tough for the teen to get a heart transplant.

Filed under: Larry King Live • LKL Web Exclusive • Medical

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Suspect captured in killing of Wichita abortion doctor

Posted: 03:49 PM ET
By Stan Finger | Wichita Eagle

WICHITA — A suspect in the fatal shooting today of Wichita abortion provider George Tiller is in custody in Johnson County.  Tiller, the Wichita doctor who became a national lightning rod in the debate over abortion, was shot to death this morning as he walked into church services.  Tiller, 67, was shot just after 10 a.m. at Reformation Lutheran Church at 7601 E. 13th St., where he was a member of the congregation. Witnesses and a police source confirmed Tiller was the victim.

Police had been looking for a white male who was driving a 1990s powder blue Ford Taurus with Kansas license plate 225 BAB. The vehicle is registered to an owner in Merriam.  At 2 p.m. today, police in Johnson County reportedly had stopped a vehicle matching that description.  Wichita police Capt. Brent Allred said that several law enforcement agencies — including the FBI and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation — have been called in to help with the case.  Homicide detectives and Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston arrived at the church after the shooting.  What appeared to be a body was taken away in an SUV with a patrol car behind it at about 12:30 p.m.

(Read More)

Filed under: Crime • Larry King Live

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May 30, 2009

LKL WEB EXCLUSIVE: Idol Contestant Danny Gokey on Kris's Win

Posted: 07:58 PM ET



AMERICAN IDOL contestant Danny Gokey spoke with LKL producer Michael Watts.  Part 1 of that conversation was posted yesterday.  To read it, CLICK HERE.  In part 2, Gokey talks about Kris's victory, the loss of his wife, future plans, and those trademark glasses.

Melinda Doolittle, season 6 finalist, has also blogged for us.  CLICK HERE to see her thoughts.

Q: What are your thoughts on Kris's victory?

GOKEY: Well, remember I picked him to win yesterday when we spoke, and here's why.  Kris and I have large fan bases, and we share a similar group of fans, so it made sense he would pick up my votes.  If he had lost and I were in the finals, I think his fan base would have gone to me.

Q: Did the right person win?

GOKEY: I think whoever won, America would have gotten it right.  There wasn't a bad, or wrong choice.

Q: Did you enjoy performing last night?

GOKEY: I loved being part of last night.  I got to sing with Lionel Richie.  For me that was the highlight of the entire season. I thoroughly enjoyed that.

Q: Do you feel like your "Idol" experience is complete now?

GOKEY: I do feel like my "Idol" experience is complete.  I'm very happy with the season and relieved its over.  Now I'm ready to take my next steps.  This is not the peak of my career, it's just a door that opened up to it.  I needed to walk through the "Idol" door to get to the rest of my career.

Q:  Looking back on your "Idol" experience, is there anything you think you could have done differently that would have put you in the final two?

GOKEY:  Oh, absolutely.  Absolutely.

Q:  What would that be?

GOKEY:  Get out of my head - just for me to get out of my head and stop analyzing things.  I overthought things way too much.  I look back on it, and I'm like oh my gosh, why did I do this, that, or the other thing?  But the thing is, I'm OK with it, because I feel like I overcame a lot in these last 10 months.  DANNY---PR-IMAGE#1--#2E2D2DI think I overcame so much.  Now, the past is the past.  This show has launched me into
my career.  It's launched me - it's helped me reach my dreams.  And I can't complain.   I'm very
thankful for the experience.  My career is now in my hands and what I can learn off of what I feel like were maybe mistakes on the show.  I can now learn off of that.  I've grown as a musician on the show, and I can become more of what I want to be.  If you ask me, this is where it really starts to count,
is after the show.

Q:  So it's where you can launch yourself into the public eye and stay there?

GOKEY:  Exactly, and that's the opportunity at hand.  I don't have to stand on the stage competing against another singer.  That will never happen to me again. So, with that pressure off, now the doors of creativity can open up and I can start to express myself and express my heart in my music, and I won't have to overanalyze things, because I'm going to have more time to pour into my music career.  And not only that, there's more that I'm going to do than just music.

Q:  Like what else?

GOKEY:  Number one priority on my list - I'm going to be meeting with managers to see what is going to happen with my music career.  But in the meantime, I'm going full force into my nonprofit organization, Sophia's Heart Foundation.  The vision inside of me for my music is not just the music itself, but it's also the foundation and how I want to mix the foundation with the music.  That's huge to me.  And then, I want to start a line of glasses, and maybe somehow the glasses could benefit
the foundation.

Q:  I was going to ask you about those glasses.  What made you do that?  I mean, that was your trademark on the show, really.

GOKEY:  Here's what I would do.  I've always loved glasses.  Always have.  I've worn glasses since I was in the fifth grade.  But, you know, I'd never really done - not big with tattoos.  I don't have any
piercings, but I wanted to stand out in my own way.  And so, I just started getting glasses, and that became my thing.  I came on the show with about 15 pair, and since the show, now that I'm off, I have about 50 pair.

Q:  Was there a song that you didn't get to perform that you would have liked to?

GOKEY:  I would have loved to perform "Still" by Brian McKnight.

Q: Is there a song you performed on the show that you wish you hadn't?

GOKEY:  There were a couple that I wish I didn't perform.  I wish I didn't do "Get Ready."  I wish I didn't do "Dream On."  Those two songs especially stick out to me.  But , it's OK.  You make mistakes along the way.  You only get a couple of days to do your music picks, do your arrangements, learn the songs and do everything else in between.

Q:  What was your favorite performance.

GOKEY:  Favorite performance - I had three of them.  "P.Y.T.," "What Hurts the Most" and "You Are So Beautiful."

NOTE: To see Danny's performances from Idol, CLICK HERE.

Q:  What's next for you? I know you go on the "Idol" tour, correct?

GOKEY:  Yes.  Here's the plan for me.  When I'm on tour, I want to be able to give the vision of Sophia's Heart Foundation to my employees, to the workers of my company.  And I want them to implement that vision and take the necessary steps to make that vision come to pass.  They'll do all the leg work, do all the writing, do all the meetings, hopefully.  And then I want to work on my album.  I want to work on writing my own songs, and then coming up with the plan to attack, and I can work on the album at the same time.  Because you see, if you put the right people in the right place it will work, because I carry the vision, but I can't implement the vision.  I don't have enough time.  But if they can implement it, I can just spread the word, and they take it from there.  Someone else can accomplish my vision for the foundation, but nobody can be me on the stage.  I can't have someone else sing my songs and be me.

Q:  One last question.  Did you ever think this would happen to you?  Did you ever see this coming?

GOKEY:  Man.  You know, since I was a kid, I always felt like God had placed something inside my heart?  And I always believed that God was going to do something great in my life.  But I didn't know the road that I was going to take to get here.  And especially losing my wife.  That was the worst thing that I've ever been through.  But, for the road, I wish there was a different path.  But I have to say I did believe that there was something great.  Not because of me, but because the being that created me is great.  I really give all credit to God, because there's nothing special about me.  I'm just not that good.  But I never would have thought that it would have been this way.  And I'm really trying to learn how to take a painful situation and make it gainful.  And that's what I'm doing.  And I'm hoping that people, from my situation, have learned a few things about themselves, that maybe they can push on through things that they don't like.  Because the one thing that's been on my heart is that a lot of people are defined by their situations.  They are defined by being a crack addict, or they are defined by their parents having abused them.  But instead of letting my situation define me, I let it become a defining moment in my life, and something good has come out of it.  I hope that people get that side of me that's saying, listen, don't let that tragedy or that failure define you, but let it be a defining moment where you step up and become greater.

Filed under: American Idol • LKL Web Exclusive

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A Florida Epidemic: Female Teachers Sleeping with Their Students

Posted: 07:08 PM ET

By Tim Padgett / Miami

art.highschool.giIf you're the parent of a teen-aged boy in Florida, you probably muttered "not again" while reading your morning newspaper this week. There on the front page was yet another case of an adult female teacher being arrested for admitting to having had sex with an underage male student. This time the alleged perp was Maria Guzman Hernandez, a 32-year-old instructor at the private Our Lady of Charity school in Hialeah; her victim was 15. But she just as well could have been the 34-year-old Jacksonville public-school science teacher arrested last month for allegedly having sex with a 14-year-old student, once in her SUV; or the 32-year-old St. Petersburg teacher collared in March for allegedly "sexting" nude pictures of herself to an 8th-grade boy; or the 45-year-old teacher at a private Christian academy in South Daytona arrested days before for allegedly having sex with a boy from her class in various Daytona Beach hotels.

Other female teachers in Florida have been booked for the same crime this year — and scores of others have also been arrested or disciplined in the past few years for sexual misconduct with students, according to a recent investigation by the Orlando Sentinel, which noted the problem is rising in the state "among female educators in particular." Florida, of course, is hardly the only state where female teachers have been nabbed for preying on boys. And nationwide, male teachers still commit far more sexual misconduct than females. A 2004 Education Department study found that about 10% of the nation's 50 million public-school students had experienced some kind of improper sexual attention from teachers and other school employees; and a 2007 Associated Press report indicated that men were involved almost 90% of the time. What's more, even in Florida those offenders are a small fraction of the state's more than 200,000 public and private school teachers. (View the Top 10 Crime Stories of 2008.)

But parents and prosecutors alike are nonetheless asking why the female version of pedagogue perversion seems more common on their peninsula compared to other places. "It certainly seems more prevalent, although we can't say for sure if it's worse than other large states," says Michael Sinacore, the Hillsborough County assistant state attorney who, in 2005, prosecuted one of Florida's most high-profile cases, that of Tampa middle-school teacher Debra Lafave, a blond siren who pleaded guilty to lewd and lascivious behavior after being charged with having sex with a 14-year-old boy. (In a controversial decision, a judge did not make her serve prison time.) "None of us can really say why at this point."

(Read More)

Filed under: Crime • Larry King Live

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Schwarzenegger proposes closing 80 percent of California state parks

Posted: 06:55 PM ET

By Paul Rogers/Mercury News

art.schwarzenegger.giNearly every state park in the Bay Area — from the towering redwoods at Big Basin to Angel Island, Mount Tamalpais to Mount Diablo and every state beach from Año Nuevo in San Mateo County to Big Sur — would close as part of budget cuts proposed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In all, 220 of California's 279 state parks, about 80 percent, would be padlocked starting as soon as Labor Day, under details of a historic closing plan released Thursday night by the state parks department.

"We've never been in as serious a predicament as we are facing right now. It is potentially devastating," said state parks spokesman Roy Stearns.

Layoffs could hit 1,500 or more of the 2,900 state parks employees, Stearns added.

(Read More)

Filed under: Larry King Live

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Georgia mom accused of moving, leaving 7-year-old behind

Posted: 06:45 PM ET

By Alexis Stevens/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

When Precious Althea Walker moved from Smyrna to Norcross earlier this month, police say she left something important behind.


Cobb County Georgia Sheriff's Dept.

Her 7-year-old son.

Walker, 23, was charged Friday afternoon with contributing to the deprivation of a minor, according to her arrest warrant. She remained in the Cobb County Jail on Friday evening on $1,500 bond, according to the Sheriff’s Department Web site.

(Read More)

Filed under: Uncategorized

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Pedophilia is "Human Nature," Sex Offender Says

Posted: 06:32 PM ET


Before Jeffrey Brisson, 30, was sentenced Friday to 45 years in prison and 25 years of special parole for the sexual assault of children who had been placed in his care, he defended pedophilia as “human nature” and railed against a society he said just does not understand.

He read calmly from what appeared to be a prepared statement and said our culture refuses to acknowledge that everyone has deep-seeded feelings of pedophilia and lust for children.  Most people fantasize about having sex with children, he said, further defending his actions by mentioning child beauty pageants.

He continued to argue about the “ignorance of the system that legislates human nature.”

The judge said that should Brisson ever be free, he would have to be monitored almost constantly. He will also be on the sex-offender registry.

(Read More)

Filed under: Larry King Live

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Editorial: It’s increasingly evident that Obama should resign

Posted: 02:18 PM ET

Ted Rall is a columnist for Universal Press Syndicate via State Journal-Register

art.obama.ahead.giMIAMI — We expected broken promises. But the gap between the soaring expectations that accompanied Barack Obama’s inauguration and his wretched performance is the broadest such chasm in recent historical memory. This guy makes Bill Clinton look like a paragon of integrity and follow-through.

From health care to torture to the economy to war, Obama has reneged on pledges real and implied. So timid and so owned is he that he trembles in fear of offending, of all things, the government of Turkey. Obama has officially reneged on his campaign promise to acknowledge the Armenian genocide. When a president doesn’t have the nerve to annoy the Turks, why does he bother to show up for work in the morning?

Obama is useless. Worse than that, he’s dangerous. Which is why, if he has any patriotism left after the thousands of meetings he has sat through with corporate contributors, blood-sucking lobbyists and corrupt politicians, he ought to step down now — before he drags us further into the abyss.

(Read More)

Filed under: Larry King Live • Politics • President Obama

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An emotional fight over land for Flight 93 memorial

Posted: 01:43 PM ET
By Eric Fiegel and Kate Bolduan CNN

SOMERSET COUNTY, Pennsylvania (CNN) - A chain link fence now stands between Tim Lambert's land and the impact site of United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed here on September 11, 2001. The property has been in Lambert's family for almost 80 years.

A temporary memorial has been set up to honor the victims of the United Airlines Flight 93 crash.

"My grandfather purchased about 200 acres in the 1930s, and he would cut timber and sell the timber off, and he would build cabins as well," Lambert says. "That's how he got the family through the Depression."

Lambert says he had no plans for the land, he just knew he wanted to hold on to it. "There's a lot of natural resources in this area - natural gas, coal," he says.

That all changed the day 40 passengers and crew died trying to take control of a Boeing 757 that had been hijacked by four terrorists as it took off from Newark, New Jersey, bound for San Francisco, California. It is believed the hijackers had intended crash the plane into the White House or the U.S. Capitol.

Plans for a permanent memorial have been in the works for years. Congress passed a law in 2002 instructing the National Park Service to establish a national memorial where the crash occurred. Part of it would be on Lambert's land.

In the seven years since, some of the most important land needed for the massive project has remained in limbo, producing an emotional debate among landowners, family members and the National Park Service. See plans for the proposed Flight 93 Memorial

At the center of the dispute is the government's plan to take the remaining land needed by using its power of eminent domain. The government can seize privately owned property to convert it to public use after paying the owner fair market value.

Lambert's land is key to the project. He owns 6 acres that are just feet from the crash site. He has yet to reach an agreement with the government to buy his land.

"Eminent domain was sort of dropped on us at the last second here," he says, "and it feels like we never even had a chance to talk about some of the issues that we needed to address during the negotiations."

Lambert still finds debris from the plane on his land.

"Red and blue wire all over the place," he says as he bends over to pick up a piece. "Here it is almost eight years later."

The National Park Service says time is running out if the memorial is to be ready by September 11, 2011, the 10-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks. It says it has to use eminent domain for 166 essential acres that it has been unable to purchase.

"We've held off using it until we've got here, really at the very last stage of this where we have no other choice," says National Park Service associate director Steve Whitesell.

The amount of land needed for the memorial is just over 2,200 acres, about 1,400 of which is near the crash site, where there will be a visitor center. The other 800 acres would create a buffer around the site to protect the rural setting.

That is where Randy and Linda Musser live - on more than 100 acres of land, 62 of them within the memorial park boundaries. The Mussers enjoy hunting, fishing and horseback riding on their land, which is about three-quarters-of-a-mile from the crash site.

"This eminent domain cloud hangs over this whole piece of property now," Randy Musser says, standing by a pond where he likes to fish. He was a member of a committee formed with Flight 93 family members to establish the boundaries of the park.

"If I knew the National Park Service was going to be able to use eminent domain to acquire property within the park boundary, I would had fought that at the time the park boundary was established to keep as much property out of the park as possible," Musser says.

The Mussers now fear that their land isn't safe from the government and say it's not needed for the memorial. "We have to play fair, we have to follow the rules and they just change the law to suit their own needs," says Linda Musser.

For Patrick White, vice president of Families of Flight 93, this project is a labor of love. White's cousin, Louis Nacke, was killed on United Flight 93. White is leading the effort to acquire all the land needed for the memorial.

"We're creating a place where the 40 heroes of Flight 93 can be revered and remembered," White said from his law office in Naples, Florida.

White says the negotiations with landowners has been challenging and supports the governments use of eminent domain.

"No one has ever questioned that there is a public purpose to these lands'" White says. "Their purpose became public the minute that those private citizens' lives and remains became part of those lands."

Lambert says he feels the same way as he walks just a few feet from where the plane crashed. "A lot of people lost their lives here and this is their final resting place. ... That's one thing I always keep in mind when I come here and I am walking through these woods."

This isn't just about money, Randy Musser says. It's about doing what's right, allowing landowners to continue to live on their land and use it the way they intended before that day. "That loss of freedom is probably the thing that bothers people more than anything else," he says.

Neither the government nor landowners will comment on how much money has been offered for the land yet to be acquired.

Patrick White said he remains confident the memorial will be completed in time. "Getting this done is a commitment that must be achieved. ... These are folks who as citizen soldiers stood up and we all need to recognize that at a place that's appropriate."

To make that happen, the National Park Service says it needs to start construction this November for a ribbon-cutting ceremony on September 11, 2011.

The courts may have the final say. Government lawyers are expected to file a lawsuit in Pittsburgh next week to condemn the property for public use.

Filed under: 9/11 • Larry King Live

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