May 20th, 2012
by Dan Riehl
Judges from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, federal district and bankruptcy courts in nine Western states and two Pacific island territories, along with lawyers practicing in those courts, and court staff, will gather at the luxurious Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa from August 13 - 16, 2012 in what looks like a less than valiant attempt to ensure American justice is being served...at a cost to taxpayers of approximately one million dollars.
From tennis courts to the caddy shack and luau experience, justice will be served in a manner many Americans never get to experience. Breitbart News has reviewed a letter from the offices of the Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, Senator Jeff Sessions, and the offices of Senator Chuck Grassley, the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, with several detailed questions they want answered by the Ninth District.
The letter cites the 2010 version of the Ninth Circuit's annual judicial conference that cost taxpayers over $657,000 in travel costs alone, along with $860,000 in combined travel costs for the Ninth Circuit's 2008 and 2009 annual conferences in Monterey, California and Sun Valley, Idaho, respectively. It also provides evidence of the Ninth Circuit's awareness of the Government's budget challenges in the face of a still suffering Obama economy, going on to challenge why the Ninth Circuit seems determined to go on spending large amounts of money on plush conferences, when a more prudent approach could provide the same value for professional purposes.
The Senate's latest effort doesn't appear to be just a bit of politically motivated PR of some form. The Ninth District is considered by many to be the most liberal of all U.S. Court Districts, with 64% of sitting judges having been appointed by Democrats--the highest of all the districts. Many also consider the district as having the highest rate of being overturned by the Supreme Court. Research by Breitbart News suggests other districts are making efforts to cut back, while the Ninth District appears to have maintained a Party on, dude! attitude when it comes to putting on its judicial conferences.
As in past years, the Ninth District seems content to leave taxpayers on the hook for whisking many judges and aligned judicial professionals off to an exclusive destination, so that they might also enjoy "yoga, surfing lessons, stand up paddle board lessons, Zumba (a Latin-inspired dance program), a tennis tournament, a day trip and tour of Upcountry Maui, a Gemini Catamaran snorkle trip, and an activity called 'The Aloha Experience.'"
That list from the Senate letter appears to have been taken directly from a flashy webpage that functions as a brochure of sorts for the expedition. All of the activities would be subsidized, or paid for by tax payers to some extent, despite a claim at bottom that "Government funds are not used for any sporting or recreational activities".
What happens in Maui may stay in Maui, but one still has to get there and back, while salaries also have to be taken into account. That was pointed out in a previous report on the Ninth Circuit's 2011 conference by another news outlet. In 2011, they claimed, "a minimum of $700,000 will be spent on salaries of the 267 judges in attendance, which range from $164,000 to $223,500" for last year's event. They also reported that each judge was eligible for a $391 per day stipend for hotel and food costs, that could total $417,600 over last year's four day Ninth Circuit conference.
Meanwhile, independent research by Breitbart News suggests some, if not all other districts, are taking a more prudent, responsible approach in hosting their annual conferences this year. The Eighth Circuit seems to be taking a more modest approach with a three day event, if this is representative: "The judges of the Eighth Circuit invite you to join them August 8 - 10, 2012, at the Kansas City Marriott Downtown for the Eighth Circuit Judicial Conference."
The Seventh Circuit appears to team up with the District's Bar Association for a 3 day conference in Chicago, at first glance, at least appearing to be far more down to business oriented. The main site for the Sixth District's 2012 annual conference is here. It lists a number of what it calls "social" events in this linkable document, and the Sixth Circuit doesn't appear to have the fancy website, though it looks inviting enough, without going to the length, or approach of the Ninth District, relying instead on typed documents in pdf form to present relevant information.
While deadline prevented Breitbart News from doing an exhaustive analysis of all the districts, there does appear to be a glaring contrast between the Ninth Circuit's approach and that of many other districts, as pointed out in an August 2011 write up by U-T San Diego, done while the Ninth Circuit was presumeably educating, as well as entertaining and serving justice and itself in grand style--some part of it at taxpayer expense--at the La Costa Resort & Spa with "400 lush garden acres near the beach in Carlsbad, CA–but miles away from the pressures of the world" according to this report.
CARLSBAD — Hundreds of federal judges from nine western states are gathering at the La Costa Resort & Spa this week for the annual 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ Judicial Conference.
The event is costing $225,000 to put on — funded with $50,000 of taxpayer money and $175,000 in payments from attorneys who are charged to attend.
In addition, The Watchdog estimates a minimum of $700,000 will be spent on salaries of the 267 judges in attendance, which range from $164,000 to $223,500.
A conference session Wednesday afternoon highlighted the impact of judiciary budget cuts.
While federal law permits the conference as a means for improving the justice system, some circuits have started canceling or curtailing the conferences, citing budget woes.
Three of the 12 federal court circuits — the ones in New England, the Rocky Mountain states and some mid-Atlantic states — have canceled their next judicial conference, The Watchdog found in a survey.
Others aim to keep costs low by holding conferences at lower cost venues. For the Washington D.C. Circuit, that means Farmington, Penn., where they can stay in $110 per night accommodations.
They may not always get the law right, given what many view as the Ninth Circuit's high rate of being overturned, but it appears as though they can do a mean "Zumba" and have some darned good tans, while not exactly starving themselves as many Americans continue to look for work in President Obama's down economy.
In background discussions for this report, the offices of Senators Sessions and Grassley seemed determined to get to the bottom of what's going on in the Ninth Circuit in this regard. No doubt conservative media and new media outlets will be spanking the bottoms of some mostly liberal judges on conservative blogs and other venues, perhaps as they should, while this story unfolds this week.
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May 20th, 2012
An earthquake in northern Italy has killed at least four people and caused serious damage to buildings in several towns, local officials say.
The magnitude-six quake struck in the middle of the night, about 35km (22 miles) north of the city of Bologna.
The four victims were killed by falling masonry. Italian media report two more quake-related deaths.
The tremor caused "significant damage to the cultural heritage" of Emilia Romagna region, the government said.
The culture ministry said firefighters and civil protection workers were now examining damaged historic buildings.
It was the worst tremor to hit the country since the L'Aquila quake killed nearly 300 people in central Italy in 2009.
Northern Italy quake
- Kills at least four and damages buildings across Emilia Romagna region
- San Felice sul Panaro: 15th-Century castle severely damaged
- Finale Emilia: bell tower collapses, crushing cars
- Sant'Agostino: ceramic factory destroyed, killing two employees
- Tecopress di Dosso: worker dies when a factory roof collapses
- Buonacompra: historic church destroyed
- Tremor also felt in cities of Bologna, Modena, Ferrara, Rovigo, Verona and Mantua
The earthquake struck at a relatively shallow depth of 10km just after 04:00 local time (02:00 GMT).
It was felt across a large swathe of northern Italy, including the cities of Bologna, Ferrara, Verona and Mantua and as far away as Milan and Venice.
The tremor forced many terrified residents into the streets.
Two people were killed in Sant'Agostino when a ceramics factory collapsed.
The mother of one of the victims told local media that "he wasn't supposed to be there. He changed shifts with a friend".
Another person - believed to be a Moroccan national - was killed in Ponte Rodoni do Bondeno.
In Tecopress di Dosso, one worker died when the roof of foundry collapsed, Rai News24 reports.
Local media also say a woman died near Bologna, with reports suggesting that she may have had a heart attack. Another victim was an elderly woman in Sant-Agostino.
About 50 people were injured - but none seriously, reports say.
Aftershocks were reported soon after the quake.
"I was woken at around 4am by the quake, it was strong and lasted up to a minute, maybe more," Frankie Thompson, a UK travel journalist in Bologna, told the BBC.
"Church bells were set off spontaneously... followed by an eerie silence. Small aftershocks kept coming and going until maybe 5:50am when a stronger tremor shook us again but not as long and dramatic as the first," she added.
Britain's David Trew, who is staying in a hotel in Ferrara, told the BBC: "I was sound asleep when the tremors started. I was having quite a vivid dream, and the first few seconds of the quake became part of the dream.
"As I began to wake up it took me a few seconds to realise that it was actually happening for real. I fumbled around in the darkness, now very scared. The room was shaking violently, plaster was dropping off the ceiling into my hair and all over the floor."
One local resident told Ansa: "I heard a big bang and I ran on the terrace, I was afraid of falling."
TV footage later showed people inspecting damaged houses, offices and historic buildings. Parts of a castle in Finale Emilia collapsed.
Emergency officials ordered the evacuation of patients from hospitals as a precautionary measure.
Northern Italy is frequently rocked by minor earthquake, but the country is well-prepared to deal with them, the BBC's Alan Johnston in Rome reports.
In January, a 5.3-magnitude quake hit northern Italy but caused no injuries.
May 19th, 2012
The Chicago Tribune
(Reuters) - The nation's largest civil rights group, the NAACP, endorsed gay marriage on Saturday, giving a boost to the movement to legalize same-sex nuptials despite reservations expressed by some black ministers.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People passed the resolution at its board meeting in Miami "as a continuation of its historic commitment to equal protection under the law," the organization said.
"Civil marriage is a civil right and a matter of civil law. The NAACP's support for marriage equality is deeply rooted in the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and equal protection of all people," Benjamin Todd Jealous, President and CEO of the NAACP, said in a statement.
The gay rights movement got a big boost last week when President Barack Obama said for the first time he supports gay marriage.
After he announced his decision, Obama held a conference call with at least eight black ministers, some of whom were skeptical, to explain his position, The New York Times reported.
Three state legislatures have voted this year to legalize gay marriage - New Jersey, Maryland and Washington state - although New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie vetoed the measure. In Maryland the law passed even though some black Democrats opposed it.
Six other states - New York, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Iowa plus the District of Columbia - have legalized gay marriage, and a handful of others recognize so-called "civil unions."
"EQUAL MEMBERS OF SOCIETY"
There has been a steady increase in support for same-sex marriage. The Gallup polling organization said in a recent survey that 50 percent of American adults now are in favor of it.
"Americans' acceptance of gays and lesbians as equal members of society has increased steadily in the past decade to the point that half or more now agree ... that gay or lesbian couples should have the right to legally marry," Gallup said on its website.
Church-going black Americans are divided over gay marriage, according to a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, but are unlikely to vote for Republican Mitt Romney over Democrat Obama, the nation's first black president, in the November general election.
Romney opposes gay marriage, a position essential for winning the majority of evangelicals.
The NAACP opposed a constitutional amendment approved in North Carolina last week that would ban same sex marriage. Twenty-eight other states have voter-approved constitutional bans on same-sex marriages, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The NAACP resolution was welcomed by gay rights group Human Rights Campaign.
"We could not be more pleased with the NAACP's history-making vote," Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said. "It's time the shameful myth that the African-American community is somehow out of lockstep with the rest of the country on marriage equality is retired - once and for all. The facts and clear momentum toward marriage speak for themselves."
(Reporting by Mary Slosson and Greg McCune; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Xavier Briand)
May 19th, 2012
A ship near the center of the storm reported pressure data that indicates the storm's wind speed is 60 mph, the National Hurricane Center said in a 7 p.m. advisory. That speed is about 15 mph stronger than originally reported.
National Weather Service meteorologist Sandy LaCorte in Wilmington said the system will continue moving to the southwest before reversing course and heading northeast over the next several days. She said the center of the storm is not expected to get close to the Carolinas' coast.
LaCorte said Alberto will produce increased waves at beaches in the Carolinas. There is a high risk of rip currents along North Carolina's Outer Banks, and a moderate risk along the southeastern beaches and the entire South Carolina coast. Winds will gust to around 25 mph.
The weather service said there will be isolated and scattered rain showers along the coast of the Carolinas into early next week.
A forecast map by the hurricane center predicts that the storm will drift toward the open sea off the Mid-Atlantic region by midweek, but it's difficult to accurately predict a storm's path days in advance.
The National Hurricane Center is considering a tropical storm watch for a portion of the coast of North and South Carolina for Saturday night. Forecasters expect the storm to strengthen.
The official start to hurricane season is June 1, but tropical storms often occur before then.
Contributing: Associated Press
More from USATODAY
May 19th, 2012
The Huffington Post | By Tara Kelly
A mother has been banned from Facebook after posting images of her newborn son, reports KCTV 5 News.
Parents Heather and Patrick Walker of Memphis, Tennessee welcomed their son Grayson James Walker on February 15, 2012, notes the Daily Mail.
The infant lived only eight hours after suffering from anencephaly, a rare birth defect where a baby is born without parts of the brain and skull.
To share his memory with family and friends, Walker took to Facebook posting the photographs of her deceased son.
Shortly after, the social network deleted the images. When the Walker's encouraged family and friends to contact Facebook in protest, the social network banned the mother from the site entirely, notes the Daily Mail.
Gizmodo explains Facebook's community standards prohibit nine types of content from the site, including the following: Violence and Threats, Self-Harm, Bullying and Harassment, Hate Speech, Graphic Violence, Nudity and Pornography, Identity and Privacy, Intellectual Property and Phishing and Spam.
Facebook has yet to comment on the incident.
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